'Anyone thinking of leaving school at 16 should know that it's a big mistake' - Dad (39) celebrates Leaving Cert results
A dad who left school at 16 said the birth of his young son motivated him to return to education and sit his Leaving Certificate more than two decades later.
Frank Gormley (39) from Ennis in Co. Clare was joyous as he collected his Leaving Certificate results this morning with his son Fionan (2) and wife Rosaleen after two years of study.
The dad, who left school after his Junior Certificate, said he was inspired to sit his exams because he wanted to show his son the value of an education.
Speaking to Independent.ie, Frank said: "I had problems with bullies in school and I guess I took the easy option, which I regretted in the years after. However, hindsight is a great thing.
"After leaving school I got a job in Tesco and over the years I trained as a part-time fireman. Although I was promoted and getting on okay, I did feel like something was missing.
"It was when my son Fionan (2) was born it really made me think about education again. I wanted him to value education and I knew that if he ever wanted to leave school he would just look at me and say 'Well, it turned out okay for you, Dad'. I wanted to be able to show how important education is in life," he said.
Fionan was just two weeks old when Frank began attending classes with the aim of sitting his Maths and English exams in June 2016, which he passed with flying colours. This year, the dad collected his results for Geography and Business.
Frank admitted that although he had a steady career without his Leaving Certificate qualification, he felt his confidence was quite low when it came to interviews.
"You don't really realise how important it is, when you've had it all along.
"I'm a completely different person than I was two years ago. In June, I got a new job with Clare County Council as a Traffic Warden. Interviews were something that were that much easier to face knowing I had passed those exams and everyone inside in the centre is so supportive."
The Clare man urged young people who are thinking about leaving school without their Leaving Cert to reconsider, and said the decision is "a big mistake".
"Over the past two years I've really realised how important education is. It opens your mind.
"Anyone thinking of leaving school at 16 without a Leaving should know that it's a big mistake. Even though it turned out okay for me I've always felt like there was something missing. It was a much harder road," he said.
The dad completed his exams as part of the Back to Education Initiative in Limerick and Clare Education and Training Board, along with 25 other students in 2017. Frank is now considering third level options, but he hopes to complete just one more Leaving Cert exam in 2018.
"Here the teachers are wonderful. When you walk in that door on the first day you feel a bit humiliated but there is no one putting that on you but yourself. However, the teachers make you feel special and are so supportive. They're fantastic.
"Next year my plan is to do History. It will be great to just say 'I have my Leaving' and not to have that worry in the back of my mind anymore.
"I'd love to be able to do a third level. Because of my background as a fireman, health and safety is an interest of mine and it would be great to be able to explore that."