No GCSE, no hope, just drifting after quitting school — until the Prince’s Trust turned my life around

Tomas Dirse [inset] and Prince's Trust's new Poplar centre at St Paul's Way, Bow Common

Tomas Dirse [inset] and Prince's Trust's new Poplar centre at St Paul's Way, Bow Common - Credit: Prince's Trust

Tomas Dirse was a ‘no hoper’, the son of immigrants who quit Stepney’s Bishop Challoner School in London’s East End after failing GCSE. He turned to cannabis and drinking, drifting aimlessly in life — until he joined a Princes Trust course. Today, at 21, he is an admin professional at Systech International construction group’s HQ near Tower Bridge. Tomas tells his story to the East London Advertiser:


I was a hard kid to look after during secondary school years, easily influenced because I just wanted to fit in — so I started smoking cannabis and drinking which affected my schoolwork.

I was born in Lithuania and my parents left to come to Britain without me when I was three. I remember being jealous of other children with parents in their lives.

My brother and I finally joined mum and dad in London when I was eight. But things were tough at first, sharing a single bedroom.

Studying at school was tough. Opening that brown envelope for GCSE results feels like your life could end that moment.

I failed most subjects, an F in Maths and a D in English, having to look my mum in the eye and telling her I had failed. Her disappointment is a hard memory to shake.

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I left school with no idea what to do, but managed to get a job. I was asked to leave after just nine months and struggled to cope with the rejection, feeling hopeless about my life.

Then a friend told me about the Prince’s Trust which is when things changed for me. It felt like being given a second chance.

The two-week Administration course fuelled my ambitions and got me a work placement at Systech, who offered me a job.

The Prince’s Trust supported me in those two weeks, helping with interview techniques, writing a CV and finding a job that suited me. This was a real turning point in my life and helped to lift me out of depression.

People argue that continuing education is “the better option” because employers take an interest if you’ve got A-levels or a degree. But this isn’t always the case. Passion and drive can be just as attractive to an employer.

I’m now an Admin professional at Systech after 16 months and love it. The company has also given me the chance to study a career-focused course after work, to develop my job. I feel ready to get involved with education again.

Yes, it is disappointing if you don’t get the grades you hoped for, but there are many other options. I travel to work with a smile because I’m proud of what I’ve achieved, despite not doing well at school.

Lack of qualifications was not going to hold me back. If I had my time again, maybe I would do things differently, but I’ve learned more about myself than I ever thought possible and ended up with a job at the end of it.