The Perfect Module at Clare Youth Service

Clare Champion, Friday, 10th March 2000

Probably one of the most exciting developments at Clare Youth Service in recent years has been the introduction of the Leaving Certificate Applied programme. This is a new development also in Irish education, a fundamental change really in the approach to those who have not, for one reason or another, benefited from the traditional mainstream education. Introduced as a pilot scheme in 1997, the course offered has gone from strength to strength, culminating in graduation with distinction for all six young people who completed the two year course.

With the developing economy and job market in Ireland, one of the needs identified has been that of certification or some equivalent qualification in education. A government initiative to tackle this educational shortfall has been the introduction of the Leaving Certificate Applied. This course concentrates on practical skills and allows students to gain up to two thirds of their marks through modules, rather than one exam at the end of two years. One major objective is that of meeting the needs of young people who may, for various reasons, not have fitted into mainstream education. Designed on a modular basis, it enables young people to access education at different levels and to build on skills they may have already obtained.

Clare Youth Service has worked hard since its inception in 1969 to meet the ever changing needs of the young people of county Clare. Its approach is many directional with a common thread - that of enabling the young people to achieve their full potential. This can be in any one, or many of a number of ways.

Apart from its traditional role of supporting and co-ordinating youth groups in the county, Clare Youth Service has developed its own role in the education of the young people of county Clare. Community Training Workshops have given trainees vocational skills and the opportunity to find employment in the workplace. Combined with this, however, emphasis has always been placed on developing as many talents as possible, with classes provided in literacy, numeracy, information technology, and any other areas in which the young people may identify gaps in their previous education.

"Certification, or the lack of it, has long been identified as a real need in the lives of our young people", declared Fr. Sean Sexton, Director of Clare Youth Service. "Many young people leave mainstream education with no paper qualifications. This does not give them a fighting chance for long-term employment. Here at Clare Youth Service we do our best to redress the balance. We see big opportunities for example in the area of Information Technology, an exciting new area where everyone can start on an equal footing. The Leaving Certificate Applied has met a huge need in this area and given our young people opportunities that would not otherwise have been within their reach".

Staff at the CYS tailor a programme to meet the individual needs of each young person. This is done in conjunction with the aspirations and personal goals of the young person and strives to make the goals both realistic and reachable.

One reason for the success of the LCA programme is its modular structure. This enables students to build on work already completed. At present there are five students preparing to complete their two year course in June and a further twelve students in the first year of the programme. Certification can lead to entry on other PLC (Post Leaving Certificate) courses, the Garda Siochána or full-time employment. The modular nature of the certification allows the trainee to add on modules and so build on qualifications.

Recently published statistics show that almost 90 per cent of those taking the Leaving Certificate Applied programme gain employment or enter further education after finishing the course. Six months after completing the LCA, only 4 per cent were still seeking employment, 36 per cent were in jobs, 23 per cent were taking post leaving certificate courses, while 16.5 per cent were undertaking apprenticeships or other forms of training.

Oliver Spellissy, Brian Kearney, Patricia Ryan,
Teacher, and Ian O'Sullivan listening to Guest
Speaker, Tom Kelly, at Clare Youth Service.
Patricia Loughnane, Antoinette Molloy and
Cathy McNamara at work in the kitchen.

Photographs from The Clare Champion.

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