Trainee teacher to challenge denial of education grant

A trainee teacher, and the mother of four children, has been given permission by the High Court to challenge Roscommon Co Council's decision that she is not entitled to a Higher Education Grant.

The High Court heard that Rhona McDermott applied to the council a grant after she enrolled in Hibernia College's Higher Diploma in Arts in Primary Education for the academic year 2008-09.

However she was informed by Roscommon Co Council she did not qualify for one on the basis that her course was not full time and that Hibernia College is not one of the approved colleges under the Higher Grants Scheme.

She claims that decision is irrational and unreasonable and unjustly and illegally discriminates against part time students and Hibernia College. It also discriminates against students on the basis of age.

Ms McDermott (aged 43) of Antogher Court, Roscommon, Co Roscommon secured leave judicial review proceedings against Roscommon Co Council, the Minister for Education, Ireland and the Attorney General aimed at securing the allocation of a grant in accordance with the 1968 Local Authorities Higher Education Grants Act.

Leave was granted by Mr Justice Michael Peart, who made the matter returnable to later this month, on an ex-parte basis.

Ms McDermott is seeking orders directing the Council to reconsider her application for a grant and consider payment for the academic year 2009-10 on the same criteria.

Ms McDermott, the mother of four children all under the age of 14 years, is also seeking declarations that the Minister and the local authority erred in law by refusing her the grant and that the refusal is a breach of her Constitutional Rights.

Moving the application Gerard Hogan SC for Ms McDermott said she applied for a grant from Roscommon Co Council in August 2008, but one month later was informed refused.

She appealed that decision to the Minister for Education. She was again turned down, and she subsequently appealed. Last April, after requesting a review she was informed by the Department that her appeal had been refused.

Counsel said that his client who holds a BA in Economics wished to retrain as a primary school teacher. She had previously worked at Athlone institute of Technology but resigned due to family reasons.

Ms McDermott who has worked as a resource teacher at a primary school in Co Roscommon looked into training at a number of colleges. However they were unsuitable because they are college based.

She decided to enrol in recognised primary teaching course at Hibernia College course, which is spread over two years and consists of on-line tutorials, placements and active workshops.

She had to obtain a bank loan in order to pay for the course, which she successfully completed and is due to graduate from in October.

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