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Gaeltacht grant to be restored for trainee teachers but not all students will be eligible

Minister Joe McHugh announced the measure in his department’s Budget 2020 briefing.

Image: Sam Boal

EDUCATION MINISTER Joe McHugh announced the restoration of the Gaeltacht Grant to assist trainee teachers who must attend a placement in the Gaeltacht in order to graduate from their college course. 

However, a cohort of students who are studying teaching at postgraduate level, and students attending private colleges such as Hibernia, will not be eligible for the grant and will be expected to pay the fees themselves. 

The Gaeltacht grant was cut in 2012 after the economic crash, leaving most students with a €1,500 bill for two mandatory placements in a Gaeltacht area. 

The restoration of the grant was announced as part of Budget 2020 this week and will come into effect in the academic year 2020/2021.

“It’s an area that I’m very interested in and I certainly wanted to be specific to the initial teacher training in the first instance, and we can go from there,” McHugh said yesterday. 

“Feedback from the many commentators in the Gaeltacht and Gaeilge community have been very much focused on that initial teacher training – and that covers obviously the usual institutions around that. It will be put forward primarily for primary and for public sector.”

Earlier this year, TheJournal.ie revealed how 500 students had petitioned the minister to immediately restore the grant.  

In a response at the time, McHugh said there was no provision for the grant in 2019′s budget but that he would give it “active consideration” ahead of Budget 2020.

IMG_2313 McHugh announced all Education budget measures yesterday. Source: Conor McCrave

Asked why the grant would not be extended to those teachers who are training at postgraduate level, such as those on masters programmes, McHugh said:

Well step by step, I’m committed to it… It’s a signal to those areas that they are supported and that we want to grow that momentum. 

“As Minister for Education, am I happy with where I want to spend [funds] and put proper resources? No I’m not. But there’s a relevance to it and the relevance is the backdrop of Brexit, which we’re all collectively keeping an eye on – it’s a no-deal Brexit scenario.”

Documents obtained by TheJournal.ie under Freedom Of Information reveal dozens of enquiries were made about the grant to both McHugh and former Education Minister Richard Bruton in the past two years.

Some of those enquiries came from other Government ministers, including junior ministers Paul Kehoe and Helen McEntee. 

Crisis

President of the Teachers’ Union of Ireland, Seamus Lahart said it was disappointing that a number of students would not be covered by the grant. 

“My immediate reaction is that there is a crisis in teaching right now, particularly with Irish teachers. If the minister was serious about dealing with the crisis, he would have extended the grant to all those engaging in the postgraduate masters in education.”

Katie Deegan, president of Maynooth SU, who was involved with the petition to the minister described the move as a “step in the right direction” but added that students in private college are also “working their ass off to pay for their college fees and then they still have the Gaeltacht fees on top of that”. 

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