Proper regulation of English language schools to protect the rights of both staff and students is long overdue. That’s the view of the Green Party in the wake of yet another sudden closure in the sector, leaving students and staff in limbo in the run-up to Christmas.
Grafton College in Portobello, Dublin, went into liquidation yesterday with staff being told there is no money available to cover the wages they are owed. In 2015, a spate of closures shone a spotlight on the sector which led to new regulations. However, critics say systemic issues remain.
New legislation is currently before the Oireachtas to implement stricter regulation of this sector, but trade union Unite, who staged a protest at the college this afternoon, have raised several concerns about the Bill and asked for the provision of a Teacher Protection Fund that would offer staff some of the same protections being proposed for students.
Green Party Spokesperson for Enterprise, Hazel Chu: “This is a terrible situation for both students and staff only a few weeks away from Christmas. For many students, their visas are reliant on the completion of an English language course within a particular timeframe. MEI have said they have arrangements to facilitate students in the completion of their courses at sister schools; it’s crucially important that they make good on this promise.
“Unfortunately there are no such arrangements in place to help staff. For too long this sector has been rife with zero-hour contracts, abuse of fixed term contracts, and even staff having to work with no formal contracts at all. There are also serious question marks over pay and conditions in some institutions. It just serves to highlight the urgent need for proper legislation in this sector. We would like to see staff afforded the same protections as students in the event of sudden closures such as this.”
Green Party Representative for Pembroke South Dock, Cllr Claire Byrne: “Unfortunately this is history repeating itself. The new regulations that were enacted in 2016 have failed to address the problems that exist in this sector; we need to make sure we get the legislation right this time. I would also have concerns now over what might happen to the buildings they are vacating as this area is already under threat with hotel developments.”
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