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Recession hits Gaeltacht student numbers

THE recession has hit the numbers of schoolchildren going to the Gaeltacht, but up to 25,000 are still expected to travel this year for the traditional summer Irish courses.

Official figures from the Department of Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht show that the numbers travelling to Irish summer colleges fell from a peak of 28,125 in 2008 to 25,120 students last year.

But Irish colleges' umbrella group 'Concos' said 2011 bookings were holding up compared to last year.

However, the financial squeeze also means they are being inundated with inquiries about scholarships to cover the cost -- which are typically between €750 and €900 for three-week residential courses, said Concos spokeswoman Caitlin Neachtain.

"Although the numbers are down by about 10pc on the peak, I would think that compares reasonably well with other tourism and cultural sectors which have been worse hit," she said.

As Leaving Cert marks for oral and aural Irish were almost doubling to 45pc of the total exam from 2012, students were highly aware of the importance of improving their spoken Irish.

Colleges had worked hard to keep costs as low as possible, and scholarships were available from a range of sources, including local GAA clubs, SIPTU and some VECs.

Ms Neachtain added that the only state subsidy of the cost was the €9.50 per day paid to the Bean an Ti for each student staying with her, which was down another 5pc this year on top of a 5pc cut in 2010, making it harder for many to cover the costs.

Irish Independent