Abbey Duo’s Historic BT Young Scientist Victory

  22 February, 2023

The Abbey School community could not be more proud of Shane O’Connor and Liam Carew’s amazing and historical success at the 2023 BT Young Scientist & Technologists Competition where they were the Overall First Prize winners. This prestigious award recognises the exceptional achievements of young scientists and celebrates the innovative and ground-breaking research that Shane and Liam have conducted over the last three years. Their project was titled “Assessing the Impact of Second level education on Key Aspects of Adolescents’ Life and Development”. Students, staff, past and present all over the world, and the wider Tipperary community were overjoyed to see Liam and Shane presented with their winners trophy in the RDS by Minister for Education Norma Foley TD and managing director of BT Ireland, Shay Walsh.

Monday 16th of January will forever be remembered for the incredible homecoming that was given to Liam and Shane as the school community and wider Tipperary community welcomed home their history making champions. Shane and Liam rode through the streets of Tipperary into the school grounds surrounded by their classmates and friends who were thrilled at the boys’ success. Representatives from the boys’ primary schools St. Michael’s Boys School, The Monastery N.S. and Mount Bruis N.S. along with other local primary schools, extended family, neighbours and friends joined in the celebrations in the PE Hall in the Abbey School. Students of The Abbey have achieved many successes throughout the years but this must surely go down as one of their greatest.

Shane and Liam’s project, conducted over a period of three years, aimed to evaluate the impact of secondary education on the mental, physical, and social well-being of students. The study was based on the premise that secondary education plays a critical role in shaping the lives of young people and helps to lay the foundation for their future. It aimed to shed light on the various aspects of secondary education that have the most profound impact on students and help to identify areas where improvements can be made.

The study was carried out by conducting a survey of students from The Abbey School Tipperary, an all-boys school and numerous other schools of single sex, co-ed, DEIS and the voluntary sector in Ireland. The survey collected data on a range of factors, including students’ academic performance, mental health, physical health, and social relationships. The results were then analysed to determine the impact of secondary education on these various aspects of students’ lives.

The findings of the study were both insightful and concerning. It was found that secondary school education had a significant impact on students’ mental and physical health, as well as their social well-being. One of the key findings coming out of the research was that, whilst inequality is prevalent in DEIS schools, exponential improvements in areas of pastoral care and physical health are quickly closing this gap. To quote directly from the students’ research ‘Secondary school is a vital social outlet for students, and this can be seen across our interviews, focus groups and in particular our survey.’

In addition to the findings, the study also recommended several ways to improve the secondary education system to better support the well-being of students. These included improving the quality of teacher-student relationships, providing more opportunities for student engagement, and creating a supportive and inclusive learning environment.

Shane and Liam’s success at the 2023 BT Young Scientist Technologists Competition is a testament to their dedication and hard work over the last three years. It is also a reflection of the support provided by the school to the boys by their teachers Ms. Niamh McCarthy and Ms. Eavan Ryan.

The impact of the study conducted by Shane and Liam extends far beyond our school and our local community. Their work will serve as a valuable resource for educators, parents, and policy makers, as it provides valuable insights into the impact of secondary education on the lives of young people. By bringing attention to the importance of supporting students’ mental, physical, and social well-being, their research has the potential to make a lasting impact on the Irish second level education system.

The next chapter for Shane and Liam is to represent Ireland at the European Union Contest for Young Scientists, which takes place in Brussels in September, and they will also attend the 64th Annual London International Youth Science Forum this summer.  We wish the boys the very best as they represent their school, county, and country with their amazing research.