Early school leaver programmes

Are you an early school leaver?

You are an early school leaver if you stop going to school school before reaching the age of 16 years or before completing 3 years post-primary education, whichever is later.

Young people who leave school without a recognised qualification are at a disadvantage in the labour market and are at increased risk of poverty and social exclusion.

If you have left school early and would like to get further education and training, there are a number of supports in place. These are non-formal education facilities that aim to provide high quality, relevant and efficient education and training opportunities outside the mainstream education setting.

School completion programme

The School Completion Programme (SCP) helps students from disadvantaged areas stay in school to complete their Leaving Certificate.

SCP is part of the Department of Education social inclusion strategy Delivering Equality of Opportunity in Schools (DEIS) which helps children and young people at risk of educational disadvantage to have better opportunities.

Each project is managed by a local management committee and provides a tailored programme of in-school, after school and holiday-time interventions to targeted children and young people who are at risk of early school leaving.

Supports for early school leavers

Young people who leave school early are at a greater risk of poverty and social exclusion. If you have left school early, there are a number of supports to help you return to education and get a qualification.

Youthreach programme

Youthreach helps young people return to learning and prepare for employment and adult life. It also provides them with opportunities to get certified qualifications. The programme is aimed at unemployed early school leavers aged 15 to 20. The Youthreach programme is delivered through Youthreach centres and Community Training Centres.

Vocational Training Opportunities Scheme

The Vocational Training Opportunities Scheme (VTOS) is a special range of courses designed to meet the education needs of unemployed people who are early school-leavers.

The scheme gives you a choice of options from basic education and training to advanced further education and training. It is for people over 21 who have been getting unemployment payments or signing for credits for at least 6 months. It is delivered through the Education and Training Boards (ETBs) at centres all over Ireland.

Back to Education Initiative

The Back to Education Initiative provides opportunities for second chance education to adult learners and early school leavers who want to get skills for work. It includes adult literacy schemes, Post Leaving Certificate (PLC) courses and further education and training.

How to apply

For more details about the entry requirements, you should contact the individual programmes.

For Youthreach contact your local Educational and Training Board (ETB) or your local Community Training Centre.

Contact your local ETB for details of adult literacy, adult education programmes and VTOS.

Page edited: 7 December 2023