Wednesday, 24 February 2021

Questions (390, 462, 470, 471, 477, 480, 485, 488, 490, 492, 494, 496)

Brendan Griffin

Question:

390. Deputy Brendan Griffin asked the Minister for Education if educational supports will be extended to students in private teaching colleges (details supplied); and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10485/21]

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Pádraig O'Sullivan

Question:

462. Deputy Pádraig O'Sullivan asked the Minister for Education if her attention has been drawn to a matter regarding payment of fees (details supplied); if consideration will be given to making the grant available for this cohort of students given the impact Covid-19 has had on income levels; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10084/21]

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Neasa Hourigan

Question:

470. Deputy Neasa Hourigan asked the Minister for Education the funding supports in place for trainee teachers of private colleges to attend their mandatory Gaeltacht placement; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10165/21]

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Neasa Hourigan

Question:

471. Deputy Neasa Hourigan asked the Minister for Education the supports in place for trainee teachers of private colleges to attend their mandatory Gaeltacht placement; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10166/21]

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Niamh Smyth

Question:

477. Deputy Niamh Smyth asked the Minister for Education if she will review correspondence (details supplied); the plans of her Department in this regard; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10184/21]

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Brendan Howlin

Question:

480. Deputy Brendan Howlin asked the Minister for Education if her attention has been drawn to the differences in treatment between teacher education students attending colleges that are State supported and those that are not in relation to supports for Irish language training; her plans to address the issue; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10226/21]

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Alan Dillon

Question:

485. Deputy Alan Dillon asked the Minister for Education the plans in place to include the students of a college (details supplied) in the primary school Gaeltacht grant; the supports being put in place for students of private colleges; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10234/21]

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Réada Cronin

Question:

488. Deputy Réada Cronin asked the Minister for Education the actions she will take to support future educators and students on the professional masters of education in primary teaching at a college (details supplied) who are excluded from the Gaeltacht and other grants allowed to their counterparts at State institutions; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10277/21]

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Niamh Smyth

Question:

490. Deputy Niamh Smyth asked the Minister for Education if the ineligibility of student teachers studying in private colleges to access the Gaeltacht placement grant to complete Irish language training in the Gaeltacht will be reviewed. [10279/21]

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Catherine Murphy

Question:

492. Deputy Catherine Murphy asked the Minister for Education if her attention has been drawn to a petition regarding fees (details supplied); and her plans to address the core issues in respect of Gaeltacht fees. [10321/21]

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Thomas Pringle

Question:

494. Deputy Thomas Pringle asked the Minister for Education if she will extend the Gaeltacht grant for student teachers of a college (details supplied) given that the course in 2021 will be a two-week online course from home; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10323/21]

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Catherine Connolly

Question:

496. Deputy Catherine Connolly asked the Minister for Education if her attention has been drawn to the fact that the compulsory immersive two-week Gaeltacht course for students of primary teaching will cost €1,300 per student in 2021 despite being held online; her plans for making this more affordable for students in both public and private colleges in view of the fact that many teaching students who would have relied in the past on part-time work to pay for this course can no longer do so due to Covid-19 restrictions; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10331/21]

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Written answers (Question to Education)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 390, 462, 470, 471, 477, 480, 485, 488, 490, 492, 494 and 496 together.

The current requirements for Gaeltacht Learning Periods (GLPs) for primary Initial Teacher Education (ITE) programmes takes the form of 2 x 2 week placements, which are outlined in the Teaching Council’s Céim: Standards for Initial Teacher Education.

A number of GLPs due to take place in 2020 were postponed due to public health restrictions. Also, due to the uncertainties of how GLPs would happen, any scheduled placements were put on hold for the 2020/2021 academic year.

My Department has been working for some time with stakeholders, including the Teaching Council, the Higher Education Institutes (including the College referred to by the Deputy), the Department of Tourism, Culture, Arts, Gaeltacht, Sport and Media and CONCOS (umbrella body for Gaeltacht Colleges), to develop contingency arrangements to allow for the completion of GLPs in the current academic year. An agreement has now been reached to proceed with the delivery of an online version of the course in 2021.

These contingency plans allow for all placements scheduled to take place this year, related to the 2020/21 academic year, along with those postponed from 2020. It will also ensure that any final year students have the opportunity to graduate as scheduled in summer 2021.

Budget 2020 provided for the re-instatement of the grant to cover the full cost of the Gaeltacht Learning Periods (GLPs) for undergraduate and post-graduate students in State-funded primary ITE programmes, with effect from the 2020/2021 academic year. The grant was previously funded by my Department up to the 2012/2013 academic year, when it was ceased due to financial constraints. The rate of the re-introduced student grant for 2021 has been set at an average of €650. This will cover the cost of the undertaking the fortnightly online course in 2021. The re-introduced grant will be made available for undergraduate and post-graduate students in State-funded primary Initial Teacher Education (ITE) programmes. This is in line with normal practice for other grant payments per students qualifying requirements.

In recent years, it is understood that students had paid an average of €750 for undertaking a fortnightly GLP in the Gaeltacht. This average cost has been in place for many years and included a contribution to cover accommodation costs associated with attending the course in the Gaeltacht. While the accommodation costs do not arise this year, it is acknowledged that Gaeltacht College providers do face a number of additional costs associated with the preparation, design and delivery of a new online programme. It should be noted that in normal circumstances, Gaeltacht householders who provide accommodation to trainee teachers attending recognised courses in Gaeltacht regions also qualify for a daily grant of €10 per night under the terms of Scéim na bhFoghlaimeoirí Gaeilge which is administered by the Department of Tourism, Culture, Arts, Gaeltacht, Sport and Media.

It is the shared aim of all of the stakeholders involved that students experience a quality online programme. HEIs are currently working directly with their Gaeltacht College providers on implementing the practical and administrative arrangements for delivery of the GLP.

An allowance has been made for 2nd year Professional Masters in Education (PME) students (including students in the College referred to by the Deputy). Those 2nd year PME students who have not completed any GLP will now complete a 3 week online programme (had previously been required to complete 4 weeks). 2nd year PME students who have completed some of their required GLP will now be required to complete the remaining balance (up to a total requirement of 3 weeks) online. This particular allowance, approved by the Teaching Council’s Education Committee, recognised the significant timetabling issues facing 2nd year PME students in respect of school placement, the GLP and normal course work.

The College referred to by the Deputy is an independent private provider of ITE programmes. In relation to the cost of the online programme for students in the College referred to by the Deputy, my Department has recently responded to a proposal from that College confirming that both my Department and the Teaching Council has no issue with that College, working in collaboration with a Gaeltacht College(s) to provide an online programme based on the agreed syllabus for their own students and to negotiate and set the cost for undertaking that programme for their own students.