These are the demands of students affected by the closure of English Language schools during the Covid-19 Pandemic. In order to address the social, economic, medical and educational upheavals that we, the students, have faced, the following demands have been established:

  1. Online classes are not an adequate replacement to in-person classes considering:
    1. Schools and teachers lack the infrastructure and training to carry out “mandatory” online classes. Current online classes are of sub-standard quality and do not meet the learning objectives nor the expectations of fee-paying students. Generally, when a new teaching method or teacher-training is being developed, volunteers, not paying students are involved. This is not fair on either students or teachers.

    2. Millions of euros have been paid by students to private ELE schools that are mostly represented by MEI, for English courses with face-to-face classes, in accordance with the standards guaranteed by QQI and ILEP regulations and framework. Currently, online classes do not have defined quality standards, and each school arbitrarily decides the content of the course, how they will offer their classes, with varying methodology, virtual class capacity, availability of teachers, use of applications and other substitutes for teachers, number of hours, among others. The lack of regulation and supervision by regulatory bodies means that online classes are not suitable as a substitute for face-to-face classes. The supervisory bodies are disabled, closed or overwhelmed, and for this reason, no control has been exercised over the online classes being offered. The lack of oversight causes disorder and non-compliance with regulations. Without enforcement, laws in place since 2006 are easily broken/circumvented. Therefore, online classes cannot be guaranteed as a viable and satisfactory learning medium. It is not fair to put pressure on the students to accept online classes in order to keep their visas valid.

    3. Before coming to Ireland, students planned for their trip, making many life-changing decisions to save and budget for their expenses. They came here expressly to attend in-person classes. Online classes require an adequate electronic device, good internet connection and a suitable place where students can participate in the class without interruptions. Not all students have access to these facilities. Nor are all schools able to provide an online teaching platform. There were no requirements in the contract about the electronic equipment or adequate home environment needed when purchasing the face-to-face classes. It is worth mentioning that many students live in small apartments and share their rooms with other 2 to 4 people, without study tables. For this reason, online classes are not possible for all students, and any demand to impose online classes for visa legalisation is considered discriminatory and privileged for some.

    4. International students paid not only for an English course in Ireland, but for a comprehensive educational experience that guarantees them to practice and improve their English language skills inside and outside the classroom; that is, to learn and put into practice what they have learned in the educational, social and working environments. Due to social distancing measures and the closure of most of the premises, this possibility has been substantially reduced.

    5. Before the government’s announcement of the quarantine measures, every school performed an individual student follow-up, checking their English learning performance (to promote them to other levels) and providing feedback delivered by a team of English teachers. Currently, due to the reduction of teaching staff in most schools, online classes jumble together students coming from different levels and are consequently failing to provide detailed attention to learners and pertinent feedback. There are also now many students participating in each online class, far above the regulatory limits for in-person classes.

    6. The regular content of the course has changed substantially during the online classes, and in many cases, part of the original content, as well as practical exercises have been eliminated in order to reduce the number of teaching hours. The timing of the classes has also changed, with some students who were planning to take afternoon classes, now being obliged to take online classes in the morning, which in many cases clashes with existing work commitments.

    7. This is a wide range of highly-rated online English courses in the global market at a cost of 75% less than that of in-person English language courses in Ireland.

    8. Upon request, students must be issued with a refund proportional to the time they had left on their course, as some students have had to return to their countries and are no longer in a position to return to Ireland.

    9. Students from the English Studio school have been given no compensation after the School went bankrupt. Those students demand to be moved to another school which will take the responsibility for providing the service, with due regard to all the other points of this document, or be offered compensation from the State to protect the well-being of the students. Also, in the event that other schools go bankrupt, students must be offered adequate compensation of their choosing (refunds, a move to another school)

  2. English schools must provide their students with the following options:
    1. To resume the in-person classes once the Irish government sets a date to reopen the schools and continue with the pending classes.

    2. In the event that the student chooses to resume classes, the student will not be forced to pay for a new course to ensure completion of the current course.

      1. The resumed course ensures the required and supporting documentation to the student, extending or renewing her/his visa, with no obligation to prove a 25 weeks course (minimum) to extend or renew her/his visa.

      2. The original payment of the course included medical insurance which must be kept during the remaining period of time.
    3. To receive the course refund proportional to the remaining weeks of the respective course - especially for those who have recently arrived in the country and did not start classes at all.

    4. Where a student chooses to avail of online classes, there must be a partial refund to reflect that these classes are lower quality than in-person classes.

      1. Where a student chooses to renew their course as online classes, there must be a significant reduction in fees.
  3. In the absence of in-person classes, students living in Ireland and enrolled in an English course provided by an Irish educational institution must be allowed to work 40 hours per week, whether or not it is a holiday period.

  4. Payments made for English certification exams must be honoured. Once the conditions are right and students have been able to attend high quality English lessons, presenting proof of payment should be sufficient for covering future exam and certification costs.
    1. Where it is not possible to take exams due to school closures, exam fees must be refunded.

  5. Concerning student’s visa status:
    1. For the remaining time of 2020, the visa renewal fee shall be zero.

    2. A special visa extension will be given to those students who postponed the date of commencement of their English course, from the time of such postponement.

    3. A visa extension or renewal will be provided to those who returned to their country due to the pandemic. This will allow them to resume their classes whenever they return to Ireland.

    4. A visa extension will be provided to those who have stayed in Ireland or have no choice but to stay in Ireland because their countries are on total lockdown, not requiring the enrolment in an online course as a condition for it, since as was stated previously, the online courses are of poor quality and have a very high price, which in most cases, is the same price as in-person classes.

    5. The extension time in the visa as a result of the COVID measures will not be taken as part of the new visa’s renewal time. The same must apply to people getting a visa for the first time. It is unfair to penalise somebody who has been present in Ireland during lockdown, and to deny them the experiences they have saved and travelled to Ireland for.

    6. Special online assistance for people who arrived after the closure of immigration offices must be provided in obtaining their GNIB documents.

    7. Taking online classes where available must not be a visa requirement.

    8. It is necessary to remove the visa requirement for the proficiency exam or TAI of online courses because students aren't adequately prepared for the same.

    9. In cases where students were on their last renewal of English courses and were planning to start postgraduate studies in September, due to the impossibility of travelling or extending their current permissions, they must be allowed to work 40 hours per week and have their visas extended until the INIS Office resumes its activities.

  6. Concerning PPSNs and social protection:
    1. The PPSN application process must be speedily expedited.

    2. There must be special emergency social protection payments made available to students who have recently arrived in the country and do not have an IRP or PPSN.