Jack Quann
Jack Quann

15.44 18 Feb 2021


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A trainee teacher has hit out at the 'astronomical amount' she is being asked to pay for an online Irish course.

Some teachers in training are being asked to pay €650 for a two week, online Gaeltacht course in order to graduate.

The usual fee of between €700 to €800 usually includes bed, board and also activities for a fortnight.

Clara is one of those trainees affected, and told Lunchtime Live the course is a requirement to teach.

"The Gaeltacht requirement is essential for all primary teachers, it's a right of passage - the teachers before us have done it and the teachers after us will do it.

"And it's something that we love to do, but unfortunately the circumstances at the moment means we won't be able to go physically to the Gaeltacht."

Clara said they have only recently been told of the changes.

"In the time before COVID... it would have been €750 for a fortnight to go to the Gaeltacht, we all go together.

"It's an immersive language experience - which is really important - the cost usually includes the bed, the board and the lessons.

"And only in the last week have we found out that the online alternative, as laid out by the Department of Education and the Department of the Gaeltacht, is a fortnight online programme that we do in our own homes to the cost of €650.

"So the learning experience that we're going to get in our own homes is completely different than the immersive experience, but yet we're still expected to pay this astronomical amount in a time when many of us are out of work".

'Cost outweighs what we get'

She said she understands costs associated with running the course, but that the cost "still really outweighs what we're going to get".

"We're really stuck in a horrible situation in the sense that we have nowhere to turn - it's a mandatory requirement, we have to do it - but there's no supports in place for us".

"The learning experience that we're going to get online, at home in our kitchens, is not the learning experience that we get in the Gaeltacht."

Clara explained that as she goes to a private college, there are not grants available to her.

"Unfortunately for students of Hibernia College, it is a private college, we are not afforded the same supports as all the other teaching students across all the other teaching colleges in Ireland.

"If anyone goes to the likes of Marino, DCU, they undertake their training there in State-supported colleges, they're actually given a grant to the tune of €650 to pay for this".

She added that this could see teachers not finish their education.

"It is going to be a huge cost barrier - it ultimately could mean that I have students in my class who are due to finish in July who will not complete their course".

"And ultimately who will not go into classrooms in September".

Teachers hit out at 'astronomical' €650 price tag for online Gaeltacht course

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Another trainee teacher, Tracey, said a precedent was set two years ago after students did the course with just the content for €400.

"So we just can't understand how we're expected to pay €650 to sit in our own kitchens, using our own laptops, our own electricity.

"We haven't been offered any breakdown of price whatsoever as to where that €650 is being spent".

Lobbying Ministers

In a statement, Hibernia College said they had contacted the Department of Education in April 2020 to consider an online Gaeltacht course for students, when it became obvious that the normal immersive two-week course would not happen.

"In early January, it was brought to our attention that the proposed fee for the two-week online programme, developed by CONCOS (the Joint National Committee of Summer Colleges) would be in the region of €650 and that all students from State colleges would receive a re-instated student grant to cover this cost," it said.

"We were acutely aware that this fee would cause huge stress and anxiety for our students and their families and we have consistently lobbied the DES since last November asking for consideration for the grant for our students.

"Unlike students in all other teaching training colleges in Ireland, Hibernia College students do not qualify for the Gaeltacht Grant.

"For Hibernia teachers qualifying in 2021/22, the high cost of this course and lack of funding is now a daunting and immediate concern.

"Private college students are not only excluded from the Gaeltacht Grant, but also all other state-funded student supports".

The college added they have lobbied Education Minister Norma Foley, Minister for Higher Education Simon Harris and Gaeltacht Minister Catherine Martin that their students would be entitled to receive the full Gaeltacht grant.

Main image: Irish-language road signs in Co Galway in 2008. Picture by: The Irish Image Collection/Zuma Press/PA Images

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Clara McDonald Department Of Education Department Of The Gaeltacht Gaeltacht Gaeltacht Course Hibernia College Trainee Teachers

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