After 47 years I decided to go back to education
My name is Bernadette and I am currently doing a Vocational Training Opportunities Scheme (VTOS) course in Enniscorthy, Co. Wexford. After 47 years I decided to go back to education.
The fact that I had to leave school at the age of 13 with very little education was something that I always felt held me back and kept a lot of doors closed to me. When my children came along, I made sure that they finished secondary school and, if they wished, to go on to third level.
In time, I opened my own Irish dance class, and the class grew from strength to strength over the thirty years I was in charge. I had great success in competitions, producing All-Ireland and World Champions.
I didn’t have much education and felt I could not sit the exam
All was going very well until the organisation I had been a member of for twenty-five years decided that all new and old members had to sit an exam to stay on as members. This was devastating to me. The only option I felt I had was to walk away from something I knew I was good at because I didn’t have much education and felt I could not sit the exam. I asked if I could be exempt from the exam as I felt I had proven that I was a capable teacher through the high standard of work I had upheld over the years.
I saw an advertisement one day for a Photography Course at Enniscorthy VTOS
I saw an advertisement on Facebook one day for a Photography Course at Enniscorthy VTOS (I love taking photos). Without thinking I phoned the number on the advertisement and set up a meeting to meet with the co-ordinator Eithne.
I remember walking in that door of the VTOS centre for the first time: my heart was beating so hard that by the time I got to the top of the stairs, I was a bit shaky. There to greet me was a lady with a big smile on her face. Eithne showed me the canteen put me at easy as she introduced me to a teacher, Terry.
It didn’t matter what I had or had not done before but what I was going to do from now
When I told him that I wanted to enrol in the photography course, he wanted to make sure I was aware that it was a full time course, five days a week: I can tell you this stopped me right in my tracks. I explained I had left school at the age of 13, with no exams. I was told I had come to the right place and I got the impression it didn’t matter what I had or had not done before but what I was going to do from now.
I got so much encouragement from these two people from day one. I felt they had my back, I believe they and the other teachers in the centre wanted me to succeed every bit as much as I did. I have now completed General Learning Level 3, and am just about to start General Studies Level 5.
I feel I am getting nearer to opening up doors that I felt were closed to me
By going back to education, I have learned the biggest lesson: I am not a stupid person, I do have a brain that yes, one can still learn at my age. I feel I am getting nearer to opening up doors that I felt were closed to me because of leaving school when I was young. This year, I sat my first ever exam in my life in Information Technology and to my surprise I got a Distinction. This, I hope, will be the first of many exams I will sit and pass. Just think of all the doors I will have open to me at the end of my final year – I can’t wait!
Find out about education and training options by visiting www.onestepup.ie or calling the One Step Up Freephone helpline at 1800 303 696 or contact Sam O’Brien-Olinger, AONTAS Information and Policy Officer via email: firstname.lastname@example.org.