Some counties losing out on post-Leaving courses
WHERE you live can make a big difference when it comes to being able to enrol on a post-Leaving Certificate (PLC) course close to home.
More than 30,000 students take this popular option – but new research shows that in some counties it is a lot more difficult than other counties.
Large county-by-county disparities leave students in Offaly, Kildare, Donegal and Roscommon suffering the least access to a PLC place.
In Offaly, the worst case, there is a PLC place for every 1,096 of the population compared with one place for every 58 people in Cavan or one place for every 61 people in Carlow.
PLCs are increasingly used as a stepping stone to higher education but also equip students, whether school-leavers or adult learners, with skills for a wide array of jobs.
The Teachers' Union of Ireland (TUI) is calling for better provision for all potential students, regardless of location.
TUI president Gerard Craughwell said further education colleges were uniquely placed to respond rapidly to the needs of a local community.
As an example, he said courses had been devised recently in cloud computing, computer network engineering and green energy. He said PLC courses should be available to people of all ages, regardless of location, and any restriction on places should be lifted.
Mr Craughwell said it was unreasonable and impractical to expect that students would live away from their home base while completing a PLC course.
"Even leaving aside the obvious financial implications, such a situation flagrantly discriminates against mature students and those with family or part-time work commitments".
He said that even in those counties with a lower level of population per place, demand often outstripped availability.
An increase in the pupil teacher ratio for the sector from 17:1 to 19:1 this academic year saw the removal of 200 full-time teaching posts, while the €200 fee payable by students since 2011 was an impediment, said Mr Craughwell.
The TUI president said the public education system had proven itself to be the gold standard in terms of the provision of these courses, and the union would caution against any further move towards supply from for-profit providers.