As the new Slingshot Academy for Dublin and Galway launches in the National Gallery of Ireland, Elaine Burke chats with Patrick Guiney about how this programme hopes to build the bridge from secondary to third-level education.
The idea for Slingshot Academy began in July 2014 when Patrick Guiney, Conor Burke and Katie Mannion set about creating something of value for young people that would bridge the gap between second and third-level education.
“Recent research carried out in UCD by Niamh Moore-Cherry, Suzanne Quinn and Elaine Burroughs through the National Forum for the Enhancement of Teaching & Learning shows that students are in need of a better understanding of their course and college options,” said Guiney.
“A further study from the Higher Education Authority (HEA) shows that as high as one-in-six first-year students drop out of their course in the first year. Like many of the team, I was one such student who didn’t enjoy the beginning of my course, lacked the knowledge of what to expect from life in university, and struggled with the transition from second to third-level education.”
Noting that more than 10,000 first-year college students drop out every single year, Guiney said he and his collaborators would have liked the opportunity to keep in contact with a more experienced student who could offer guidance and insight into the transition to third level, and this is what they plan for Slingshot Academy.
“This opportunity is one which we aim to provide for as great a number of second-level students as possible,” he said.
New programmes for Dublin and Galway
The first Slingshot Academy in February this year attracted 180 second-level students. This is now expected to grow to 2,000 between the new programmes in Dublin and Galway.
The first academy launched today, 22 October, with Guiney and his team prepared to welcome more than 200 second-level students travelling from as far as Donegal.
Mentors from University College Dublin, Trinity College Dublin, Dublin City University, Dublin Institute of Technology and Dún Laoghaire Institute of Art, Design and Technology will be speaking with second-level students at the event, while partners such as Accenture Ireland, Smart Futures, Enterprise Ireland, Bank of Ireland and the American Embassy will be there in support.
‘Our inspiring college mentors will draw on second-level students’ talents and learning styles to create a uniquely tailored education for them during and after Slingshot Academy’
– PATRICK GUINEY, SLINGSHOT ACADEMY
Speakers already lined up include Fintan O’Toole, Danielle Ryan, Eithne Harley, Lindsay Browning, Joe Caslin, Caroline Casey, Will Prendergast, David Caffrey and Prof Luke O’Neill.
These monthly academies will continue throughout the academic year, and the Slingshot Academy team are excited to reach even more 15 to 19-year-olds across Ireland with the growing programme.
“Our inspiring college mentors will draw on second-level students’ talents and learning styles to create a uniquely tailored education for them during and after Slingshot Academy,” said Guiney.
“To thrive in today’s world, Irish students need both breadth and depth in their educational experience. Slingshot Academy fosters interdisciplinary learning spanning the core education subjects in STEM and entrepreneurship.”
Guiney also hasn’t ruled out an expansion of Slingshot Academy’s remit over time.
“If we’re lucky enough to grow and expand to different areas of Ireland then we’d really like to expand the subjects to the areas of language, fintech and, of course, art,” he said.
Gains for students and Slingshot Academy
As well as speeches from mentors, Slingshot Academy will engage students through interactive workshops, panel discussions and long-term mentoring.
Overall, the feedback coming into the Slingshot Academy team has been very positive, with many mentors and students from the early academies returning for the next round.
“The most enjoyable aspect of Slingshot is speaking to students and parents on a daily basis. You realise very quickly how much support and care is there for young people in Ireland,” said Guiney.
Almost 2,000 second-level students have applied for Slingshot Academy. Applications remain open to parents, teachers and students on www.slingshot.ie.
Slingshot image by Borja Andreu via Shutterstock