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Ireland: “real danger” for future of ELT sector

Marketing English in Ireland has warned that there is “real danger” of a series of closures of English language schools in the country – and effectively wiping out an industry with an estimated value of around €880 million for the economy – without further financial support from the Irish government.

MEI said the "The high season, which usually begins in mid-February and runs to September, has dramatically and unequivocally been cancelled". Photo: Pexels

Ireland welcomes 150,000 ELT students from more than 100 countries annually

According to figures reported in the English Language Industry of Ireland Recovery Plan, there will be an estimated 80% decrease in revenue in 2020.

“There is a real danger of a series of closures, effectively wiping out the industry”

Ireland welcomes 150,000 ELT students from more than 100 countries annually, and the industry employs more than full-time 3,000 workers and a further 7,000 seasonal and part-time workers.

However, “few industries have been as dramatically impacted by the Covid-19 virus as the English language learning sector”, MEI wrote in a statement.

“The timing of the Covid-19 outbreak could not have been worse… The sector relies entirely on international students and thus international travel.

“The high season, which usually begins in mid-February and runs to September, has dramatically and unequivocally been cancelled,” the statement continued.

Additionally, MEI said the pandemic is having a serious financial impact on the 30,000 Irish host families “who welcome the student into their home and make them feel like part of their family”.

“Where Irish families supplemented their income by hosting international students this much needed additional income has now disappeared for 2020,” it warned.

In recent weeks, the government has introduced measures to support the ELT industry, such as easing visa restrictions for English language students, meaning that they will be able to stay in the country for the remainder of the year provided they meet certain conditions.

But MEI has said that further support is needed to aid the recovery of the sector.

“The government has shown strong leadership in how they are handling this crisis but further financial support is necessary to create a sustainable recovery that will have positive repercussions for Irish host families and other stakeholders that benefit directly from the sector,” MEI said.

“In the absence of continued support from the government, a significant number of schools will struggle to stay in business through the quiet winter months.

“There is a real danger of a series of closures, effectively wiping out the industry, leaving many thousands of in-country students in limbo and devastating knock-on effects to the wider tourism services sector,” MEI concluded.

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