April 2010

Last year I wrote about this great opportunity offered by the kind folk in NCI, and I’m glad to say the “Change your Life” competition is back! Karl Kilmartin was the first winner of this prize and he speaks about it here. The amazing prize package includes an educational fund worth €20,000 and €15,000 in other supports, like personal mentoring, computer equipment and even a style package worth €1,000. Contestants just need to answer one simple question: Why do you want to change your life, and how could education help?

For a slightly less dramatic opportunity WAM also has more placements on offer with the ESB. You can find more information here.

The National Council for Special Education at The School of Education, Trinity College, Dublin is carrying out a Study of Access and Progression Experiences of Student with Special Educational Needs Moving From Compulsory Education to FE/HE.  They are looking for participants to this research. Below is some information about the project. If you are interested in participating, contact me and I will send out further information.

“Aims of the Study.

The NCSE has commissioned a study of the access and progression experiences of students with special educational needs moving from compulsory education to FE/HE, with a view to identifying practices and policies to ensure improved access and smooth progression to FE/HE.

The experiences of individual students are central to a better understanding of these issues.

Key research questions include:

  1. What are the access and progression pathways for students with special educational needs moving from compulsory education to FE/HE institutions?
  2. What are the roles of educational institutions, individuals and health services in the preparation of students with special educational needs for this progression?
  3. What resources and supports are available to students with special educational needs to accommodate them making this progression?
  4. What are the experiences of students with special educational needs in accessing and progressing to FE/HE?
  5. What are the views of educational and health personnel involved in supporting students in accessing and progressing to FE/HE?
  6. What major issues and barriers arise with regards to access, progression and transition?
  7. What best practices/strategies in relation to access, progression and transition exist?

As you can see, this is an important piece of research and one that has real potential to increase the numbers of students with special educational needs accessing and transferring to FE / HE.

To ensure that the research is the best that it can be, the research team has an international record of research and practice in the area.  The project is being managed by Dr Conor Mc Guckin and Dr Michael Shevlin from The School of Education in Trinity College, Dublin.

Also working with Conor and Michael are Professor Richard Rose, Sheena Bell, and Andy Smith from The Centre for Special Needs Education and Research at the University of Northampton, UK.  Dr Eileen Winter from the Institute of Child Education and Psychology Europe and Dr Geraldine Scanlon from Dublin City University are also working on the project.

We would like to ask for your help in the research.

Whilst some of our focus will be in talking to secondary school students with special educational needs to gain an understanding of their experiences of trying to make the transition from school to FE / HE, we would like to gain similar understanding of the experiences of students who have successfully made the transition to FE / HE.

What do we plan to do?

We will be holding focus groups with groups of about 6 students.  These focus groups will explore questions related to your experiences of the transition from secondary school to your current / previous studies.

When do we plan to do it?

We plan to conduct these focus groups in the next few weeks.

How long will it take?

The focus groups will last approximately 1 to 1.5 hours.


We really value the input from people who help us with our research.  To ensure that everything we do is ethical, we have a set of ethical guidelines that govern the research.  You will receive a copy of this Code of Ethics.  You will also receive a Consent Form.

Thank you for taking the time to read through this.

If you would like to find out more about the project, or other similar projects that the team are currently working on, contact Dr Conor Mc Guckin at conor.mcguckin@tcd.ie”

What to do now if you would like to take part in the research.

If you would like to take part in the focus groups, please let me know and I will let the researchers  know.  I will send out further information and also keep you informed of when and where the focus groups will take place.