English language teaching schools warn of severe job losses due to restrictions

Jamie Mc Carron 

English language teaching schools have called on the government to loosen restrictions on the recruitment of students or risk the loss of 8,000 teaching jobs in the sector.

The CEO of Marketing English in Ireland (MEI), Ireland’s largest association of English language schools has urged further clarity on the issue.

David O’Grady says that he has no answers for the global agents looking to book overseas students into his company’s Irish-based schools.

Due to current Covid-19 guidelines, these schools can reopen but they cannot enroll new international students.

“We have been allowed to reopen for face-to-face classes with the existing students that we have already been teaching online, but we can’t welcome new students from overseas,” O’Grady said.

“Agents and groups keep calling, asking me when we are restarting. They don’t get why a tourist can come to Ireland, but they can’t confirm a booking for an overseas student.”

“There can be a time lag of three to five months between us being out in the market and recruiting new students. We’d be happy with a phased reopening plan. The sector supports thousands of jobs.”

The ELE (English Language Education) industry in Ireland provides approximately 8,000 jobs.

MEI is the largest association of ELE schools in Ireland, representing over 70 member schools.

It’s projected that projected 674 students per month are blocked from enrolling over the remainder of 2021.

O’Grady believes the ELE sector has been abandoned by the Government, with no roadmap for reopening.

“Without evidence or data to back it up, language students have been singled out as somehow being a greater risk than university students, or tourists,” says O’Grady. “The Government has restricted international recruitment and blocked the processing of visas for English language students, a practice which MEI believes is discriminatory and without any basis.

“You can get tattoed from head to toe, you can be among 50,000 people attending a GAA match in Croke Park, but you can’t be an overseas student attending a class in an ELE school that is following all of the HSE’s strict Covid guidelines.”

One school, ISI Dublin, has lost close to 95% of its income since the beginning of the pandemic.

Brian Burns, of ISI Dublin, said: “We have spent months working through hundreds of protocols and policies so that we can bring students back into our school.

“We invested thousands to get our building ready for our reopening in September. It is heartbreaking and deeply frustrating to see tourists and university students arrive into the country while we are being told to remain shut to new students.”

Jamie Mc Carron

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