Further education colleges could open 'all year round'
FURTHER education colleges, best known for their Post Leaving Certificate courses, could soon be open all year round, rather than closing in the summer months
Education Minister Ruairi Quinn announced the plan while speaking at the annual conference of the Teachers Union of Ireland (TUI).
While Mr Quinn has no plans to tear up teacher contracts and force them to work through the summer months, there are likely to be negotiations on more flexible arrangements, which could include teachers giving the option of summer working.
It comes on foot of a shake up in the further education and training sector, which has seen the creation of a new body, Solas - replacing the former State training agency FAs - to take over responsibility for both these areas.
Mr Quinn said the issue of year-round provision in the further education and training sector was one that needed to be tackled.
He said year round provision had been the norm in FAS training centres , but this had not been the case in the further education centre.
“We cannot dictate that education opportunities will only appear at certain times of the year. We need to be much more flexible than that."
"We cannot have parts of the education infrastructure vacant for three or four months of the year”.
Mr Quinn said that the Further Education and Training Strategy would have a strong focus on meeting the needs of the unemployed and connecting with employers.
However, the proposal for year round provision of further education sector has raised concerns among TUI members
TUI president Gerard Craughwell described it as a “bombshell” and said it was the first time the idea had been formally tabled.
“It is regrettable that the minister has shown himself to be a minister of announcements , rather than a minuter of negotiations”
Mr Craughwell said there had been no consultation, which was needed if they were to avoid the situation they were now facing in relation to the introduction of new Junior cycle.
TUI members are concerned that the merging of the training and further education under Solas, will result in a Fas model of shorter courses, with a focus on training rather than education.
“We are not a training agency, we are educators” said Mr Craughwell, who said they wanted to continue to teach students for major awards and they did not want to see further education modularised
The issue of terms and conditions of TUI members currently working in the further education sector, and now facing the prospect of a longer academic year, is also central to their concerns.
Some TUI members, on programmes such as Youthreach and in the prison education service, , do work longer than the traditional teachers' contract of about 33 weeks a year, for which they are paid overtime.