‘Back to education’ move a real winner for mature students

For years now the Vocational Training Opportunities Scheme (VTOS) has attracted early-school leavers back to education, with the Clonmel programme achieving high levels of success every time.

For years now the Vocational Training Opportunities Scheme (VTOS) has attracted early-school leavers back to education, with the Clonmel programme achieving high levels of success every time.

This time around 13 adults, who mainly left school in their mid-teens but wanted to complete their second-level education, sat the Leaving Cert under the auspices of VTOS on The Mall in Clonmel the results were a credit to all.

The two-year programme is for people over the age of 21 and culminates in the Leaving, with all participants sitting six or seven subjects. “A lot would have left school at 15 or 16 and worked in various areas and maybe lost their jobs or reared their families, then decided to come back,” co-ordinator Michael Corbett explains.

Those present last Wednesday to collect their results uniformly expressed enthusiasm about the process.

Karen Fahey said that, while it was hard to go back to education, “it was well worth it” and particularly having received her results. “It was a brilliant experience and I’d recommend it to anyone. I left school in fifth year but it was always something I wanted to do but something that was on the long finger. I got there in the end. It was probably the best two years of my life and completely different to what I expected.”

She now has a college place secured for September, as does Kevin Fitzsimons who left school at 16 and previously worked as a carpenter but found things getting tough as the recession kicked in. “I had no intention of ever coming back to education, but I got a lot more out of it than I thought I would. It was a real confidence boost. I came back for the social thing but I got a lot more confidence as a result.”

Kevin is going on to study architecture at WIT.

Another VTOS student, Bernie Lonergan, said she was “delighted” with her Leaving Cert results and is now “trying to decide” where to go from here. “I always regretted not doing the Leaving at school and this was the best two years of my life. I’m delighted I came back.”