asked the Minister for Education if she will exempt adult students from the payment of fees where such adults wish to return to education programmes such as the leaving certificate thereby assuring that no barriers, financial or otherwise, will impede the continuation of their education.
Ceisteanna-Questions. Oral Answers. - Leaving Certificate Fees.
I have exempted adult students who have not previously sat the leaving certificate examination or who have sat it in only one or two subjects or who are medical card holders, from the course fee and the increased examination fee payable by repeat leaving certificate pupils.
Also, from September next, it will be possible for the long-term unemployed to avail of increased educational opportunities provided by the VECs under an extended educational opportunity scheme without payment of fees.
What was the date of the Minister's decision on this matter?
The Deputy is referring to the second part of the answer in regard to the VECs. It is not formally announced as yet. There are two pilot schemes at present and they have acted very satisfactorily in conjunction with the Minister for Social Welfare and myself. Unemployed persons who wish to go back to school in a formal way can do so without losing benefit. Under the revised programme for Social and Structural Funds we are hoping to extend that from January 1990. Because many of the participants will want to enter upon a formal academic school year we are hoping to get in as many as possible in September under the extended educational opportunities scheme. When we have all the nuts and bolts in place I will be making a formal announcement.
I am grateful for the Minister's reply. Am I right in taking the Minister to mean that adult students, in terms of payment of fees for the leaving certificate, will not be regarded as in the same category as ordinary repeat students? In other words where some of these students have taken two or three subjects in one year and more subjects in the following year the scale of fees, payments and charges will not apply to them in the same way.
The Deputy has quite rightly identified these two matters. There are actually two separate questions. Adult students who have not previously sat the leaving certificate examination or who have sat it in only one or two subjects or who are medical card holders are exempted from the course fee and from the increased examinations fees payable by repeat leaving certificate students, but they would pay the normal required fee for any student sitting a leaving certificate. From September next it will be possible for the long-term unemployed to avail themselves of increased educational opportunities provided by VECs under an extended educational opportunity scheme without payment of any examination fees, but they are the particular groups of people under that heading.
In the case of adult students who wish to build up an examination by perhaps taking two subjects one year and another two the following year will they have to pay the fee in respect of the second and subsequent years?
That is quite an attractive option for people nowadays. The present situation is that if people have sat the leaving certificate in one or two subjects and have not previously sat the full leaving certificate examination, or if they are medical card holders, they are exempt from the repeat course fee and from the increased repeat examination fee. They pay the normal fee as any student in school would do.
Now that the category has been identified I would ask the Minister to keep an open mind on the possibility of exempting that category from all fees if and when the opportunity presents itself as a way of encouraging second chance education.
Deputy Birmingham is quite right in suggesting that this is the logical outcome. Whether it will be the administrative and financial outcome is another matter. I have found that matters move along and I will keep an open mind on what the Deputy has said.