New research by the Teachers’ Union of Ireland (TUI) shows huge disparities in respect of equality opportunity for student s to access Post Leaving Certificate (PLC) places around the country.
The union has called for better access for all by way of an immediate lifting of the cap on 31,600 approved PLC student places in schools/colleges which have a track record in delivering PLC courses
The union is also demanding that the plan to charge PLC students a €200 fee be scrapped.
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Speaking today, TUI General Secretary Peter MacMenamin said:
“Existing PLC courses are in huge demand, with a recent TUI survey showing that there were three applications for every course in the country this year. In addition, all colleges reported an increase in the number of recently unemployed seeking to upskill.
Restricting the sector to 31,600 places makes absolutely no economic sense when the cost of the extra resources necessary to take on new students would be greatly offset by savings of money otherwise payable in the form of Jobseeker’s Allowance.
PLC courses should be available to people of all ages in all parts of the country. In the current climate, it is completely impractical to expect that students would live away from their home base while completing a one or two-year PLC course. This is simply not be financially viable for many and militates particularly against those mature students with family and part-time work commitments. We are therefore seriously concerned at the disparity in availability of places on a geographical basis around the country, as illustrated in the attached table and map. All citizens should have access to a PLC place relatively near their home, regardless of age or background. The restriction on the number of places therefore needs to be lifted as a matter of urgency.
Even in those counties with lower numbers of people per PLC place, demand is far outstripping availability. For example, 4,500 applied for 1,200 places in Cavan while 4,500 applied for 1,250 places in St John’s Central College in Cork.
Meanwhile, even allowing for exemptions, the €200 fee payable by students for PLC courses from the start of the next academic year will act as a deterrent to thousands of people from upskilling or continuing their education. We would estimate that the net gain to the State would be in the region of around €3m, a paltry amount when the damage that it will do to the educational prospects of large numbers of the population is considered.”
Notes to the editor:
It is stated in the Programme for Government that:
“This Government’s plan is to build a knowledge society. Education is at the heart of a more cohesive, more equal and more successful society, and it will be the engine of sustainable economic growth.”
The Government can begin to build such a society by increasing the number of PLC places, particularly in areas where access to PLC courses is very limited because demand for places greatly exceeds the number of places available.
There is a commitment in the Programme for Government to increase the number of places:
“We will develop a new graduate and apprenticeship internship scheme, work placement programmes and further education opportunities for our young unemployed providing an additional 60,000 places across a range of schemes and initiatives. We will provide a range of initiatives to increase access to further higher education for the unemployed.”
We therefore call on the Government to substantially increase the number of PLC places as an integral part of the Jobs Initiative which we understand will be announced in the near future by the Government.
PLC programmes provide students with specific vocational skills which enhance their prospects of securing employment or progressing onto further studies. There are numerous new courses focusing on areas of future skills shortages in line with the National Skills Strategy and the needs of the smart economy. Examples of the wide variety of courses available include animation, computer games design, applied social studies, science, multimedia, web design, sport, music technology, security studies, business studies and hairdressing.