“It is so much more than just a piece of paper!” - the wise words of one man who received his Leaving Cert last week, having returned to school after a break of more than 30 years.
Denis Davis, from Clonmel, was just one of the 15-strong VTOS Leaving Cert class who proudly received their exam results last Wednesday. After two years of study at the CTI in Clonmel Denis, his classmate Leanne Wall, also from Clonmel, and their friends are looking forward to the future.
The scheme which has been running in Clonmel since 1990 offers unemployed people, who left education prematurely, an opportunity to return to learning in order to raise their level of education.
Many VTOS learners progress to further education, third level education or to employment. Denis is taking up a course in ‘Security and Criminology’ in Mallow, while Leanne is taking a business PLC course at the CTI this year with a view to going on to a business degree next year. Three learners from the group have already secured places at third level, one studying humanities at NUI Maynooth, one learner going to study psychiatric nursing and another taking a degree in acting and performance.
Getting their Leaving Cert was a great achievement for them considering returning to education and committing to a two-year full-time programme required a considerable effort on their part as they had to juggle busy lives, childcare and many other commitments with homework and the many demands of a full-time course.
Leanne left school in sixth year, just before her Leaving Cert, to have her daughter Ava. Ava will be starting school this September and her own parents are very proud of Leanne, they were a brilliant support to her when she returned to education, as the most difficult part for her was trying to work on homework and look after her little girl. She explained she went back to do her Leaving because she realised not having it would always hold her back in life, something she didn’t realise when she left school.
Denis decided to go back to education when he was made redundant from his job in Glenpatrick in 2013. Having worked since he was 15 he decided he couldn’t sit around doing nothing, it was ‘now or never.’ He said he saw it as an opportunity and even though he worried at 47 he would be the oldest in the class and ‘out of touch’ when the class got together they ‘clicked’ as a group and both he and Leanne agree they have made life long friends.
Leanne said the class was a mix of ages.
Going back to do the Leaving Cert is something both recommend. Denis said he realised “all the rubbish jobs” he had during his life and that when he went back to education he saw that he could have a career that he enjoyed.
Even after so long he said his own mother wasn’t surprised when he went back to education, and she just wanted him to do well. But she did tell him she was very pleased, last Wednesday, having waited 30 years to see him get his Leaving Cert. His own children are grown up now too and are delighted for their dad. Denis is even hoping that he can be an inspiration to one of his own sons who left school early without his Leaving Cert. He said as a teenager he didn’t realise the value of education, that it was much more than just what he learned from a book, that it broadens the mind.
Denis paid tribute to Michael Corbett, who leads the course. “Because we are older we have a life outside of school and Michael was always understanding,” Denis told The Nationalist. In return Michael praised the class of 2015. He said that when they got to know each other a real bond developed between them all. Everyone helped each other. “None of us wanted to see each other fail we had each other’s backs,” Denis added. “We were all there becuase we wanted to be, because we all learned from our mistakes of the past,” Denis said that knowing that made them all equals and good friends. “It’s an amazing experience.”
The VTOS course is geared towards the fact that the students are older and have life experience. Classes take place in the CTI building on The Mall in Clonmel, but even though the building is also home to teenage tudnets the VTOS class have their own room and their own canteen. They also go away on trips toghether.
“Because we are older and have lives school became a haven from outside,” Denis went on to say. “I would certainly recommend it to anybody - if you don’t know what to do go back. It opens your mind to what direction you can go because once you’ve been working for a few years you are so focussed on your job. VTOS opens your eyes, other doors can open for you if you take a chance and see what happens.”