Alternatives to school for teenagers

It's a new year, a new term, and for many families, another round of school refusal. You have desperate parents, miserable teens, and an education system that seems to want school refusers to disappear. And sometimes that's the answer. When every option has been tried and school is still not working, sometimes parents, teachers and teenagers have to make the decision to do something else.

In Ireland it is mandatory for children to receive an education up to age 16 or after taking the Junior Cert State Examinations, whichever is later. But there are options for teenagers who leave school earlier and here are some links to explore:

Home education


(also sometimes called autonomous education)

Online schooling

Home tuition

Home tuition may be provided the Irish State, where the teenager is out of school for reasons such as expulsion, pregnancy, a serious medical problem, or sometimes lack of suitable education.

Alternatives to school for older teenagers include:


This Government funded service provides a second chance at education for early school leavers aged 15-20

National Learning network

This offers over 40 different vocational programmes and caters for teenagers with a variety of educational learning needs.

'A' levels

There is a centre in Dublin where teenagers can take 'A' levels instead of the Leaving Cert but it is reported to be expensive.

The Open University

This provides 'supported open learning' and the minimum age is 16.

FIT IT courses

A variety of information technology courses that are free for those who meet certain criteria run by FIT Ltd, a non-profit organisation set up by industry in collaboration with the Irish Government.


These are available from 16+ for a variety of trades

ASDAN and other flexible learning options

Other Options

There are a wide range of other option too, depending on where you live. The best summary that I have found is a local leaflet produced for young people by Dun Laoghaire/Rathdown Council. It features many locally based services, but most of them must be available in other parts of the country too. Just click on the link to download the pdf.

Disclaimer: I'm just sharing the information that I have gathered so far and I'm always happy to amend or add to it. Apologies to my overseas readers too...

This is Part 3 in a series about school refusal, click on the links below to read the other posts:

Part 1: How to Tackle School Refusal

Part 2: What Every Parent Needs to Know About School Refusal


  1. A great gathering of important information. It's good that there are options, interesting to see the online option. I didn't know that was there. It's also sad that the state-accepted one has to fail first, and probably spectacularly so thereby hugely affecting self-esteem, before these even get explored. Wouldn't it be great if some of these ran right along with the Secondary School option? Imagine an apprentice-based alternative to the Leaving certificate for those who found the Junior Cert option really didn't suit them....... xx

    1. For the FIT.IT one applicants must be aged 21 and over.Would anyone recommend the education training board courses? When I did enquire it seemed to be more suited to people with learning disabilities.My son thankfully doesn't have a learning disability,he has aspergers which was only diagnosed 6 months ago.He did very well in his Junior Cert last June but now refuses to return to school.He's just turned 16.Apparently he's too young to do most of these courses is what I've been told by every training board I've rang.

    2. I totally agree with all your concerns Jazzy, and there is also a lack of centres that provide options for academic teens such as Anonymous' son. I think there needs to be special schools for teens with aspergers who cannot cope in mainstream, as there is very little available for them, but if I find anything suitable, I will certainly add it here.

  2. Thank you that would be great.:-)

  3. Both of mine left school after their Junior Cert. It was the best thing for both of them. Jono was part-time up until his Junior Cert. He still hated school but it made it more bearable.
    Jono went to the NLN - not for him either.
    Lucy went to the CTC - which is a version of FAS (ETB) for young people. It was the making of her, she did her ECDL and got paid to do it!

    1. Thanks so much for your comment: I must check out CTC and maybe add it too?