Courses Without Leaving Cert

Courses Without Leaving Cert

For those who are interested in continuing their education but have not completed or (or perhaps failed) their leaving certificate, there are still options out there which will allow progression of education.


If you have left school without any formal qualifications, the Youthreach programme can provide you with opportunities for basic education, personal development, vocational training and work experience. Youthreach seeks to provide early school leavers (15-20 years) with the knowledge, skills and confidence required to participate fully in society and progress to further education, training and employment.

Youthreach operates, usually over 2 years on a full time year round basis, and delivers 35 hours Education and training per week for 45 weeks. The programmes are generally full-time, although part-time courses can be arranged. You can concentrate on a core training area of your choice but basic subjects, such as English, maths and life skills, are generally covered by all trainees.

Opportunities to improve literacy and numeracy are available at all Youthreach centres.

More information available at your local ETB centre.


If you are over 21 years of age, are unemployed and have been getting certain social welfare payments for at least 6 months you can apply for the Vocational Training and Opportunities Scheme (VTOS). This scheme provides a range of courses to meet the education and training needs of unemployed people. It gives participants opportunities to improve their general level of education, gain certification, develop their skills and prepare for employment, self-employment and further education and training.

VTOS is operated through local Education and Training Boards and is aimed in particular at unemployed people who are early school-leavers.

The courses available range from basic education and training to advanced vocational training and there is a wide choice of subjects. The courses are full-time, about 30 hours a week (for example, 6 hours a day for 5 days) and can last up to 2 years. Many courses lead to qualifications such as the Junior Certificate, Leaving Certificate and awards at Levels 3, 4, 5 and 6 on the National Framework of Qualifications.

More information available at your local ETB centre.

National Learning Network (NLN)

National Learning Network provides training and specialist support to people who, for a variety of reasons, may find it difficult to gain employment. For those who may have struggled in school due to conditions such as ADHD,  Dyslexia or Aspergers Syndrome, NLN offers a second chance at education.

NLN tutors ensure all learning is done at a student’s own pace and in their preferred learning style. This may include visual for those who like to learn by looking, watching and seeing, auditory for those who like to listen, and kinaesthetic for those that like to try things by doing.

More information available at

PLC Courses

In general, you should have finished your secondary education and taken your Leaving Certificate examination in order to be eligible for a PLC course.

However, you may be able to apply for a PLC course if you have not completed your Leaving Certificate. If you have work experience relevant to the course on offer or think you can demonstrate a particular ability in that area, you should write to the college where the course will take place. Explain your circumstances in the letter and ask to meet the co-ordinator of the course.

You may be eligible for a means-tested student grant or a Back to Education Allowance, depending on your circumstances. Our document on Grants for students in further and higher education describes who qualifies for a grant and how to apply.


To be eligible for an apprenticeship you must be at least 16 years of age and you are expected to have a minimum of grade D in 5 subjects in the Junior Certificate or equivalent exam. However if you don’t have these qualifications, you may still register as an apprentice with an employer if you:

  • Complete an approved preparatory training course followed by an assessment interview.
  • Are over 18 years of age and have at least 3 years of relevant work experience, in which case you will also be asked to do an assessment interview.

For more information contact your local ETB centre.