A young Donegal woman is among the many students awaiting their Leaving Certificate results this September.
For Leah O’Donnell from Raphoe, it’s an exciting wait after a rewarding two years.
Leah took a less-traditional route to the exams through Donegal ETB’s Further Education and Training (FET) Service.
Leah, now aged 21, left school early at the age of 16. She wanted to be a beautician, but after studying the trade, she realised that it wasn’t the right path for her.
Leah decided that if she wanted to go to college she would need a Leaving Cert, so she decided to go back to the books with the goal of eventually studying special needs education.
Looking back, she says it was “one of the best things I’ve ever done. It’s nothing like school.”
Donegal ETB’s FET Centre on the Port Road in Letterkenny provides a Leaving Certificate for Adults programme that is designed for mature students.
Leah said: “I really liked the way it was taught. The teachers don’t treat you like you’re in school. You can work at your own pace and use your own initiative.”
Leah liked the blended learning format, where students were in class on Monday-Wednesday. On Thursdays they had one-to-one support online and Fridays were for independent study.
“It was really enjoyable it was a nice atmosphere to be in. The teachers would try and not stress you out, but they would push you to do the work because they knew you could do it,” she said.
By the time June 2022 came around, Leah entered the exam hall full of confidence.
“I was a little bit nervous, but when I went in, I knew that I knew the material,” she said.
The programme prepared students for Ordinary level exams in six subjects. Leah had a particular interest in English and History and was very happy with how those exams went.
“You have to put the work in yourself while the teachers work along with you,” she said.
Leah will now progress to do an Early Learning and Care course at Donegal ETB in September.
“I wanted the Leaving Cert behind me in case I wanted to go on to be a special needs assistant or a teaching assistant. I would like to help others in the future,” she said.
Leah’s career planning was well-supported by Donegal ETB’s Adult Guidance and Information Service, where she got one-to-one advice on her options.
To other people considering returning to education and getting the skills they need for their dream future, Leah’s advice is “don’t overthink it, start now.”
Adult Education Officer Charles Gorney added that students can gain much more than a Leaving Cert qualification from the programme.
“Doing the Leaving Cert as an adult is a big step. I often see a transformation in people through the years. We have an excellent pass rate and students get the confidence boost to go on to something else. Many go into Higher Education programmes,” said Charles.
“For anyone thinking about going back to do the Leaving Cert this September 2022, don’t be afraid to call us. That is the first step. Call our guidance staff on 0749178088 and they’ll point you in the direction of joining the right programme for you.”
You can now apply online for the Leaving Certificate for Adults through this link to the ETB’s website which also contains more information on the course: https://bit.ly/3k5lquX.