All applicants are invited to complete an assessment prior to being offered a place on a course. The purpose of the assessment is to ensure that you are offered a place on a course which is at the right level for you and appropriate to your needs.

This assessment will help identify an applicant’s level of literacy, numeracy, language and IT Skills.

The assessment will include:

  • Reading and Comprehension
  • Writing
  • Maths
  • IT Skills

The process takes approximately 2- 2:30 hours. The results of the assessment will indicate options open to learners.


Option/Results of Assessment

There are a number of possible outcomes/options to the assessment depending on individual results.

  • An applicant is deemed suitable for the course and is invited to register or attend interview prior to placement on the course they applied for or
  • An applicant is identified as requiring to build their skills at a lower level to their original application. These applicants are informed of their options and invited to register for a different course at a lower level to develop their capacity to progress to a higher level or
  • Applicants are identified as having a literacy issue (Reading, Writing or Maths). These applicants are invited to meet with the Adult Literacy Co-ordinator to discuss their learning options or
  • Applicants are identified as having an English Language issue as English is not their first language. These applicants are referred to our ESOL service to access a course to suit their learning needs regarding English Language. or
  • Referred to Adult Education Guidance and Information Service to explore options

What is BTEI?

The Back To Education Initiative (BTEI) provides part-time further education courses mainly for people with less than upper second-level education.

It gives individuals the opportunity to combine learning with family, work and other responsibilities. Anyone who has left fulltime education can take part in a course, but priority will be given to those with less than upper second-level education.

The BTEI allows people to study part-time (up to 400 hours per year). It is possible to obtain a major award at NFQ levels 1-6 where parttime courses are undertaken on a modular basis over time and combined to complete a major award.

A full award means completing 8-9 individual modules. These modules can be completed in 1-5 years depending on your availability, your skill level and course schedule. Please be aware that all modules are scheduled subject to a minimum number of suitable applicants. All applicants’ skills are assessed prior to placement on the course to ensure the level of the course is suitable.

The Back to Education Initiative (BTEI) provides part-time courses for adults and young people aged over 16 who left school with few or no formal qualifications or low literacy levels.

* Applicants to Adult Education Services Balbriggan and Swords must be 18 or over before they commence a course.

The participants eligible for free tuition are people who (or their dependants):

  • Have less than upper-second level education or
  • Are getting a jobseeker’s payment or means-tested social welfare payment (See: List of Eligible Payments)
  • Are getting Family Income Supplement or
  • Have a medical card or GP visit card
  • Are eligible to participate on VTOS or Youthreach
  • People signing for credits

All other participants are charged a fee. For information about fees, you should contact the BTEI Coordinator in the Adult Education Service in Balbriggan on 01 8417763 or in Swords on 01 8408946

If you are getting a social welfare payment, you may keep your payment and participate in BTEI as long as you continue to satisfy the conditions attached to your payment. If you are getting a jobseeker’s payment you will need to apply for the Part-Time Education Option.

As per our How to Apply guidelines Here. Please note placement on a course is subject to an English Reading and Writing Assessment. If you do not meet the specified assessment requirements you may be offered a course at a lower level to develop your skills.

The social welfare payments, other payments and health board benefits to be covered by this arrangement will include persons who hold the benefits outlined below and their dependants:

  • Medical Card
  • Supplementary Welfare Allowance
  • Job Seekers Benefit (Unemployment Benefit)
  • Job Seekers Allowance (Unemployment Assistance)
  • Family Income Supplement
  • Farm Assist
  • Carer’s Allowance
  • One-Parent Family Payment
  • Back-to-Work Allowance
  • Community Employment
  • Part-time Job Incentive Scheme
  • Widow’s and Widower’s Non-Contributory Pension
  • Blind Person’s Pension
  • Pre-retirement Allowance
  • State Pension (Non-Contributory) (Old Age Non-Contributory Pension)
  • Guardian’s Payment Non-Contributory (Orphans Non-Contributory pension)
  • Illness Benefit, where this has been held for a continuous period of at least 6 months (Disability Benefit)
  • Disability Allowance
  • People signing for credits.

View the participant funding categories Here.

What is VTOS?

The Vocational Training Opportunities Scheme (VTOS) is an educational opportunities scheme for unemployed persons which is funded by the Department of Education and Science with assistance from the European Social Fund. The Scheme, operated through the Education and Training Boards (ETBs), provides a special range of courses designed to meet the education and training needs of unemployed people.

The aim of the scheme is:

  • to give unemployed people education and training opportunities which will develop their employability
  • to prepare people to go into paid employment or on to further opportunities leading to paid employment

Eligibility criteria are determined by the Department of Education and Science.

To qualify for VTOS a person must:

  • be at least 21 years of age at the commencement of the course,
  • be in receipt of an unemployment payment or signing for credits for at least 6 months*.

A limited number of places are available to persons in receipt of One Parent Family Payment, Disability Allowance, Illness Benefit, Blind Pension, Invalidity Pension, Deserted Wife’s Benefit/Allowance, Widow’s/Widower’s Contributory/Non Contributory Pension and Prisoner’s Wife’s Allowance and to qualified spouses/partners of persons eligible to participate in VTOS. Periods spent on VTOS, FS training schemes, Community Employment, Job Initiative, Youthreach or time in prison can count towards the 6 month qualifying period.

Persons in receipt of Jobseeker’s Allowance or Jobseeker’s Benefit receive a weekly training allowance equivalent to the maximum personal rate of Jobseeker’s Benefit. Any means which have been assessed are disregarded. Also, increases in respect of qualified adult and child dependents continue to be paid while there is an underlying entitlement to such increases on Jobseeker’s Allowance or Jobseeker’s Benefit.

Persons in receipt of One Parent Family Payment, Disability Allowance, Illness Benefit, Blind Pension, Invalidity Pension, Deserted Wife’s Benefit/Allowance, Widow’s/Widower’s Contributory/Non Contributory Pension and Prisoner’s Wife’s Allowance continue to draw their payments in the normal way from the Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection.

VTOS is not means tested. Therefore the rate of payment is not affected by any earnings/income received by the VTOS participant.

Persons signing for credits only, may qualify to participate on a VTOS course. These participants do not receive a training allowance but may receive travel and lunch allowances from DDLETB.

The spouse/partner of a person in receipt of Jobseeker’s Allowance or Jobseeker’s Benefit which includes an increase for the spouse/ partner may also qualify to join a VTOS course. However the spouse/partner will not qualify for payment in his/her own right while on VTOS, but he/she may get a lunch and travel allowance paid by the ETB where appropriate.

Persons receive free books and materials at the commencement of the VTOS course.

VTOS participants retain entitlement to their Social Welfare secondary benefits.

There are a range of secondary benefits which are not administered by the Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection:

  • medical cards – administered by the Department of Health
  • differential rents – administered by the Local Authorities
  • travel (for distances over 3 miles) and meal allowances – administered by the Department of Education and Science.

Entitlement to a VTOS training allowance is terminated if the participant ceases to pursue the course. Issues relating to disqualification are a matter for the Department of Education and Science and DDLETB.

Successful applicants to the VTOS scheme may be eligible to avail of childcare supports under the National Childcare Scheme.

Applications for the VTOS Programme open each January for entry onto the programme in September of that year. (Example: for entry to VTOS programme September 2020, applications will open January 2020) Applications remain open until all places are filled on the programme.

Access to the programme is as follows:

  • Completed Application Form/ Eligibility Criteria Assessed.
  • English Reading and Writing Assessment
  • Interview/ Skills Assessment
  • Placement on Course

The VTOS Programme with the Adult Education Service Balbriggan, is primarily one year. However, participants may avail of a second year progressing to a higher award, if they have successfully completed their first year.

Adult Literacy

All courses run under the Adult Literacy Service are free to all students regardless of income or social welfare status.


ESOL Beginners, ESOL literacy and ESOL Reading and Writing are free to all students regardless of income or social welfare status. ESOL level 3, ESOL level 4 and ESOL level 5 have the same eligibility criteria as courses provided under BTEI. Fees may apply if you do not meet the BTEI eligibility criteria.

Childcare Supports

Students who are returning to education may be in a position to access Childcare Support for the duration of their course. There is a new childcare scheme due to be implemented in October 2019, The National Childcare Scheme, Early Learning and Care.

Applications for the National Childcare Scheme can be made online at www.ncs.gov.ie/apply

To apply online you require the following information:

  • A verified MyGovID account (www.mygovid.ie)
  • Your Children’s Information such as date of birth and PPSN
  • Your employment, social welfare and income related details
  • Your partner’s PPSN (If you are a member of a couple)
  • Your partner’s employment and income related details (If you are a member of a couple)

For further information on the scheme go to www.ncs.gov.ie

What is the National Framework of Qualifications?

The National Framework of Qualifications (NFQ) is the ten level system (1-10) giving an academic or vocational value to the qualifications obtained in Ireland. NFQ levels help to indicate how an award can be used for training, education and employment opportunities. Adult Education Services Balbriggan and Swords offers a range of certification from Level 2 to level 6. See below National Framework of Qualifications.

View the national framework of qualifications graphic Here.


Most of the certification delivered by Adult Education Service Balbriggan and Swords is awarded by Quality and Qualifications Ireland (QQI). QQI is responsible for the quality control for Further Education colleges and other providers.

All courses accredited with QQI awards deliver continuous assessment throughout the year. Assessment may include assignments, projects, presentations and examinations. The assessment process is continuous, with individual learners given on-going assessment throughout the year.

To recognise the achievement of our learners, all students who complete a full award from QQI level 2-6 are invited to receive their award at our annual Graduation Ceremony. This is a great night of celebration for graduates including their family and staff who have supported their learning journey.