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Ireland: language school closure affects 150 international students

As many as 150 international students have been impacted and 10 teachers have been left without wages following the sudden closure of an English language school in Limerick, Ireland after it failed a Department of Justice inspection.

Lanlearn has “ceased any and all classes” and alternative arrangements were being made for all registered students. Image: LanlearnLanlearn has “ceased any and all classes”, impacting almost 150 international students. Image: Lanlearn

Approximately 10 teachers are owed as much as €3,000 each in unpaid wages

According to a statement from Unite, a union which represents English language teachers in the UK and Ireland, the teachers are owed as much as €3,000 each in unpaid wages following the closure of Lanlearn, which also traded under the name of Limerick International Study Centre.

“The owner – who bought the school for €100 in early 2017 – has effectively disappeared”

Unite confirmed that it was contacted by teachers who have been left unpaid since the closure, and was also trying to assist the 150 international students who were turned away from their accommodation as a result of school’s failure to pay the provider.

ELT providers in Ireland that wish to recruit non-EEA international students must have their programs listed on the Interim List of Eligible Programmes operated by a branch of the Department of Justice.

A spokesperson for the Department confirmed with The PIE News that ILEP accreditation was removed from Lanlearn in February 2018 after “irregularities” in record keeping, teaching and employment matters were identified during an inspection.

They confirmed that 147 students were registered with the school during the inspection in January 2018.

At the time of publication, Lanlearn had not responded to The PIE’s request for comment.

However, in an automatic email response, Lanlearn said it has “ceased any and all classes” and that arrangements were being made for all registered students to study in other local English language schools.

Director of the Irish Council for International Students Sheila Power told The PIE News that while there isn’t a full breakdown available of the nationalities of the students affected, her understanding is that “most are Brazilian”.

A statement from ICOS confirmed that students registered at Lanlearn prior to its removal from the ILEP have now been offered cover under learner protection by being relocated to another school, Limerick City College.

However, it added that the situation of a number of visa-required students who had paid money to the school but had their visa applications refused are yet to be resolved.

“We need proper regulation of ELT school management and ownership regulations”

“While the insurance provider, ODON, has stated that it will cover its obligations to visa-required students as well, this is on the basis that they will be able to travel to Ireland to take up an alternative course; the insurance policy does not provide for refunds,” the statement read.

“ICOS will continue to provide support to these affected students to seek a fair solution.”

Highlighting the plight of the affected teachers, Unite said it has written to the Irish Social Protection minister asking her to grant exceptional leave to those left unpaid and allow them to apply to an Insolvency Payments Scheme to compensate for lost wages.

Despite closing without notice, Unite said the school has not declared itself insolvent and no liquidator has been appointed.

Unite regional organiser Roy Hassey said that the school proprietor remains liable for the wages owed and other debts.

“However, the owner – who, according to documentation seen by Unite, bought the school for €100 in early 2017 – has effectively disappeared, changing his contact details and leaving his employees with no means of contacting him,” Hassey said.

“The losers in this situation are the workers and other creditors…they cannot retrieve monies owed from Lanlearn’s proprietor, and are not eligible for assistance since no insolvency has been declared or liquidator appointed.”

Hassey said the case highlights the need for proper regulation in the sector to safeguard the interests of teachers and students, as well as Ireland’s reputation as an ELT destination.

“In the longer term, we need proper regulation of ELT school management and ownership regulations,” Hassey added.

This is not the first occasion that Unite have questioned the legitimacy of the ELT sector in Ireland, after it held a protest in 2017 to highlight the allegedly worrying levels of bogus self-employment.

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