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Grant won't be reinstated to student teachers spending thousands on placements in the Gaeltacht

The expense runs into thousands for students who spend two months in the Gaeltacht.
Apr 24th 2019, 12:45 PM 42,383 37

EDUCATION MINISTER JOE McHugh has ruled out reinstating the Gaeltacht Grant for student teachers who are required to pay for and attend a placement in the Gaeltacht in order to graduate. 

The Gaeltacht grant was cut in 2012 after the economic crash lead to cuts across the board.

Since then student teachers and their families, at both primary and secondary level, have been covering the expense themselves, which comes in at €750 per two weeks stay in a Gaeltacht region.

It is mandatory for student teachers training to be a primary teacher to spend four weeks in the Gaeltacht across the duration of their four year-long course.

The placement involves a number of classroom-based lessons as well as outdoor activities where students immerse themselves in the Irish language. 

Student teachers studying Irish for second-level teaching are also required to show that they have stayed in the Gaeltacht for a total period of two months in order to qualify – putting costs into the thousands for them.

Postgraduate masters in education (PME) students are also expected to spend four weeks in the Gaeltacht before graduating from their programme. 

Frustrating

Maynooth students’ union, along with the Union of Students in Ireland (USI), has been campaigning for the grant to be reinstated and sent 500 letters from individual students requesting support to the minister in December.

In a letter to Maynooth SU’s VP for Education, Katie Deegan, the office of Minister Joe McHugh said “there is no provision in the Department’s budget for this grant or an element thereof in 2019”.

Capture Letter from Dept. of Education Source: Katie Deegan

“The decision to stop the Gaeltacht placement grants was taken during the economic crisis when, unfortunately, very difficult decisions had to be made to stabilise the nation’s finances,” it said.

Deegan said the response from the minister, a former Minister of State for the Gaeltacht, was “frustrating” and the concerns of hundreds of students had “fallen on deaf ears”.

“When you think about it this way, if you want to be a primary teacher you have to go to the Gaeltacht for four weeks and for just two weeks alone it costs €750,” she said.

“And if you want to be a secondary teacher you have to go for two months as well,” she added.

“This is not optional for them, and they have to go to pass their course so they have to spend upwards of €1400 to go… and these students are crippled with debt at this stage.”

Deegan said it was even more frustrating that McHugh, who she said has publicly encouraged people to learn Irish, was not supporting students attending the Gaeltacht in this way.

“If you are somebody who is passionate about the Irish language and wants to encourage people to go to the Gaeltacht and promote it but then doesn’t want to help students who are dropping out because of the pressure,” she said.

“He’s somebody who says he a passion but yet won’t help these students out with it.”

TheJournal.ie contacted a Department of Education spokesperson who said the grant would be given “active consideration” in the next budget. 

A spokesman for the minister said: “the Gaeltacht grant for trainee teachers was an unfortunate victim of the recession and it is an issue that the Department has not been in a position to address in budgets over the last number of years. 

“The issue is being given active consideration and a decision will be made as preparations are being made for the next budget.”

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Conor McCrave

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