This morning I had a meeting with Aoife Hennessy, a secondary school and Biology teacher at Loreto Secondary School in Fermoy, Co. Cork.

The meeting was arranged for 11.30am as she was due to have an hour free before her next class but due to unforseen circumstances she had to take another teacher’s PE Class so our meeting only lasted about 10 minutes. I was unable to go into the detail I wanted to as she was rushing to take her class outside for PE.

However in the short time we had I did get a chance to briefly explain the project to her and why I wanted to talk to her today. Following this I asked her a few question and these along wither her answers are outlined below:

  1. What do you feel are the most urgent needs going forward for teaching STEM subjects in secondary school? Aoife would like to see data equipment for measurement technology introduced to her Biology class. She made the point that when students go on to college, they are witnessing this type of equipment for the very first time and it methods of measuring were introduced into the classroom, it would make things easier. But she also made the point that the school doesn’t have the infrastructure at present to introduce such equipment. 
  2. What resources are used at present to teach STEM subjects in this schools, i.e. digital devices, resources etc? At present the science teachers would use TES (online teaching resources – UK) for some classroom material. They would get online resources and online powerpoints but often a lot of the information just isn’t good enough and therefore isn’t worthwhile for the classroom.
  3. What subjects are offered to TY students in this school? In terms of STEM subjects, the school offers Biology, Chemistry, Physics and they are also covering Computer Programming and Psychology.
  4. In your opinion does TY prepare students for life after school? If so, how? Yes it does. When students enter TY they are a bit shocked by the system. The are met with many deadlines which they wouldn’t have been used to in Junior Cert. They learn to manage their own time by developing time-management skills. They aren’t thought the skills but are instead put into a situation where they learn the skills without even realising it. 
  5. What problems would you identify with the current TY set-up? When it comes to the science subjects, they do them in blocks of 6 weeks each, i.e. Biology, Chemistry and Physics for 6 weeks each. Students are also covering Computer Programming and Psychology which they have to fit into the year. Aoife would like more than 6 weeks with students, she feels it isn’t long enough.
  6. What are the most important aspects of TY? Development of Social Skills and Subject rotation as  this gives students a more informed choice for what subjects they should take for leaving cert.
  7. What initiatives have TY students taken part in during TY, i.e. BT Young Scientist, Young Social Innovators, Gaisce Award etc? This year they have over 30 students completing Young Social Innovation. It’s been 2 years since they took part in the BT Young Scientist and Tech Exhibition mainly because the teacher responsible is out on Maternity Leave. Aoife herself said she would love to take that on but she is only a teacher in the year with two years and she feels she doesn’t know the students well enough. 
  8. What are the key skills you want students to learn in TY? Social Skills that students will use throughout their lives.
  9. Do you offer Work Experience for TY students? And what challenges do you face in organising Work Experience for students? Aoife herself isn’t responsible for organising Work Experience but students have two weeks of work experience and one week of Social Placement. The one major problem they face is trying to find a place for everyone because the other two schools in the town complete work experience as well.
  10. What other activities do students take part in during TY? Mostly day activities – Mental Health Care Talk, trip to Dublin and then one night away at the end of the year in Kenmare where they take part in outdoor activities. 
  11. Is there anything in particular you would like to see introduced to improve the current TY set-up? Aoife would love to see Agriculture Science introduced into the school because at present they don’t offer it and the only way students can take it for leaving cert is by doing it outside of school.

We spoke about arranging another meeting with the three science teachers in the near future and she also gave me her number so that I could ring her in case I had any more questions I didn’t get a chance to ask today.

She will also get back to me with the percentage of students who have left school and are studying STEM subjects in college.

 

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