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96% of 13-year-olds are settling in well in secondary school, according to the new report. Alamy Stock Photo
Growing Up

Pandemic had no impact on the 'vast majority' of 13-year-olds' transition to secondary school

Just under 100% of 13-year-olds agreed that they had made new friends in second-level education.

THE “VAST MAJORITY” of 13-year-olds smoothly made the transition into secondary school last year, with almost 100% of them agreeing that they had made new friends, irrespective of the disruption caused by the Covid-19 pandemic.

The Department of Children has published its first Growing Up in Ireland report today, since the Economic and Social Research Institute handed it over in January for them to complete.

It found that the majority of 13 year-olds are healthy and have settled well into secondary school despite “unprecedented disruption” caused by the pandemic.

The annual report examines how young people are getting on in important areas of their lives such as education, physical health, socio-emotional wellbeing, pastimes and family circumstances.

This year, the report found that almost all (97%) 13-year-olds have made new friends after transitioning to secondary school, with 96% agreeing that they were “settling in well” to their new school.

The report, which has collected data from this cohort since they were nine months old, completed 6,375 phone calls with children aged 13 between June 2021 and June 2022. This year, it follows on a special Growing Up in Ireland Covid survey that was conducted in 2020.

‘Heartening’ to read

The 2020 survey found that two-thirds of 12-year-olds – the same cohort interviewed for this year’s report – had the 2020 March-May lockdown coincide with their transition from primary to second-level education.

Those who started secondary school in September 2020 were more likely to report negative experiences around the return to school, including finding school work difficult.

Since then however, 92% of the group now agree that they are getting on well with their school work with almost all of them agreeing they had made new friends.

Minister for Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth Roderic O’Gorman said it was “heartening” to read that the majority are doing well and have settled well into school.

83% of 13-year-olds said they were comfortable talking to a parent if they had a problem and 78% agreed they would speak with a friend. Just under half (44%) agreed they would speak with a sibling, while 39% said they would be comfortable speaking with a grandparent.

Similarly, 63% of the same group reported that they enjoyed spending time with their family, when asked in the 2020 survey.

O’Gorman said he was “struck by the complexity of the social world of 13-year-olds” and how the group were “dealing with the usual ups and downs” in relationships with families and friends.

Household circumstances

The report found that one-parent familes were more likely to face socio-economic hardships; such as being in the lowest income quintile, renting their home, find it difficult to make ends meet and not reaching third-level education.

Additionally, the department found that young people in these homes were “worse off on several indicators” including having less access to suitable home-learning resources and lower participation in organised team sports.

“The report also highlights where more work is required to ensure that all children have the possibility to flourish and reach their potential,” O’Gorman added.

In 2020, the report found that 59% of 12-year-olds spent less time participating in organised cultural activities.

However, this year’s report said that 78% of the same group are now engaged in some form of structured pastimes at least once a week, the majority of that being team sports.

The department plans to revisit this age group again, once they have turned 17 years old, which will allow it to “see how government services and policies addressing poverty are working”, according to O’Gorman.

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