The Star Pupil Programme is a county-wide access to education programme for 5th year students in full-time second-level education who are working towards their Leaving Certificate, and who self-identify to their school as being members of the Traveller Community. It works in partnership with Travellers to ensure greater participation by and outcomes for Travellers in the education system and in wider society. It also seeks to promote access to third-level education.
The strength of the Programme is that it is steered by a multi-agency group who collaborate to ensure that Traveller students in Kerry are given additional support in second-level so as to support their progression to third-level and employment opportunities. The Programme’s Interagency Steering Group made up of North & East Kerry Development Company, South Kerry Development Partnership, Kerry Education & Training Board, IT Tralee, LINK School Completion Programme, Kerry Employability Service and Kerry Travellers Health & Community Development Project.
This Programme aims to break the cycle in low educational attainment among Traveller students by building the capacity of participants, and reaching their schools, parents and communities by promoting models of good practice. It provides information, guidance, support and work placement opportunities to these students. The purpose of the work experience aspect of the Programme is to give the student first-hand experience of the expectations of the work place and the opportunity to develop their work-based skills including CV preparation, interviewing and career planning, build awareness within the labour market and the participating agencies of Traveller culture, and support positive learning for all involved. The Star Pupil can expect their work experience supervisor to be approachable, positive and encouraging, to set the tasks to be completed, to give guidance on how to carry out the task and when it is to be completed, to give constructive feedback on the student’s performance, to encourage the student to ask questions and to give some information on the relevance of their second-level and further study to the type of opportunities that workplace offers.
The Star Pupil Programme is arguably the most effective initiative in the county in maintaining Travellers’ participation in post-primary education. It continues to increase students’ levels of confidence; to make them more ambitious in relation to their academic pursuits; to develop pathways towards employment; and to develop co-operation with access programmes at third level.
The programme is co-ordinated by Christina Boland, Third-level Traveller Access Officer, who is based in IT Tralee. Christina liaises with second level schools throughout Kerry and meets with potential applicants to discuss the programme together with the application procedure and criteria. Places are offered following interview on the basis that applicants have a good and consistent school record during their fifth year at school; commit to complete their sixth year with at least an 80% attendance (in normal circumstances) and sit their Leaving Certificate exams; are available for work experience during the summer of their fifth year; undertake to carry out the duties assigned to them during work experience to the best of their ability and agree to adhere fully to the policies and procedures of the organisations providing them with work experience.
In accordance with the nature of the Programme as outlined above, the Star Pupil is given a bursary of €400 on the basis of the successful completion of the work experience aspect of the Programme at the end of 5th year, and a bursary of €150 at Christmas, Easter and Summer of 6th year on the basis of the successful completion of the education aspect of the Programme and participation in Star Pupil events as outlined above. This is subject to funding and is paid by Kerry Travellers Health & Community Development Project on behalf of the Programme’s Interagency Steering Group.