Student teachers have warned they will not be able to complete their studies because budget cuts mean they have to spend up to €1,500 each on compulsory Gaeltacht trips.
The move was announced last year by the Department of Education.
But this year’s first-year students have protested as the Gaeltacht trips and the associated costs loom.
Up to this year, primary teachers had to attend a three-week language course as part of their training. That requirement has been extended by the Teaching Council to two two-week stays during what will now be a four-year degree for most prospective teachers.
However, previous funding of the course fees has been withdrawn by the department from this year.
Students say it will lead to costs of over €700 in fees and expenses for each of the two trips. Darren Wynne, president of the students’ union at Mary Immaculate College of Education in Limerick, said expecting student teachers to come up with more than €1,400 over two years is not possible in the current economic climate.
“The people who made these decisions are out of touch with reality, it is an issue of huge concern for students. It will make it financially impossible for some students to complete their course,” he said, after students at the college met with course providers.
“In the long term, this will dissuade students from socio–economically disadvantaged backgrounds from teacher education courses.
“We are calling on the Teaching Council to review the placement requirement or the Government to restore funding for the placement,” he said.
The Teaching Council said it had been proposed to extend the Gaeltacht placement to up to nine weeks, but it was restricted to four weeks because of the withdrawal of State funding.
The council has told Education Minister Ruairi Quinn and Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht Minister Jimmy Deenihan that the Department of Education should set up a targeted financial support programme to ensure student teachers can take part.
The department said the abolition of grants towards student teachers’ attendance at Gaeltacht courses brings teacher-training programmes more in line with other degrees in which students themselves must bear the costs of additional special requirements.
The cut affects those who began teacher training this year but the department paid over €860,000 to Irish colleges in respect of student primary teachers’ fees this year.
A spokesperson said a field trip element of a fee grant may be payable under the student grant scheme, and a limited number of students who do not qualify for a grant may be eligible for a contribution towards Gaeltacht course fees.
“In circumstances of particular need, students may apply for support under the Student Assistance Fund which assists students in third-level institutions in exceptional financial need,” a spokesperson said.
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