Students said that they had paid fees of up to €2,000 to study at Grafton College, and it is understood that the majority of students were from Brazil, with many others from Ecuador, Chile and Mongolia.
Some teachers claim they are now “one pay check away from homelessness”
On November 30, teachers at the school said they had been unable to contact Grafton College’s London-based owner after monthly wages were not paid, with reports claiming that the school was preparing to move to a smaller premises in January 2019.
However, following a meeting between teachers and the school’s management on December 3, it was announced that the school would be closing its doors for good.
A spokesperson for ELT Advocacy Ireland told The PIE News that former teachers occupied the building overnight and are now calling on the owner, Saeed Ur Rehman, director of studies Nicholas Kelly, and Irish Education minister Joe McHugh, to demand they be assured their previous month’s wages, which totals €75,000.
A GoFundMe page has also been launched on behalf of the unpaid teaching staff.
In a statement, Marketing English in Ireland – an association of accredited English language schools that includes Grafton College – said management informed MEI of trading difficulties and the likely impact on students in recent days.
MEI chief executive David O’Grady said that the students affected by the closure will be accommodated in new schools and protected under the Learner Protection Scheme that was introduced after the snap closures in 2014-2015 where approximately 20 schools closed suddenly.
However, the future is less certain for the teachers who do not have similar protection. The Qualifications and Quality Assurance Bill is currently being debated in the Irish parliament.
Trade union Unite has argued for a Teacher Protection Fund to be included in the Bill, as well as having each school sign up to the Fair Employment Mark to ensure abuses in language schools are avoided in the future.
Unite regional organiser Roy Hassey said the Grafton College case reinforces the need for legislation to protect the interests of both teachers and students in the ELT sector.
“There is literally nothing in place to help teachers or put in any protection for them”
“It is not in the interests of teachers, students or the wider economy that rogue employers be allowed to continue operating in the sector,” he said.
“This [QQA Bill], with the amendments, needs to be fast-tracked in the interests of the sector as a whole,” Hassey added.
Teachers, students and their supporters have flocked to social media in protest, with some staff members claiming they are “one pay check away from homelessness” as a result of the snap closure.
Speaking to Irish media, one of the teachers affected, Daragh McCarthy, said it is the third occasion that a similar situation has happened to him.
“The students are left without a school, they then are taken care of and they are put into other language schools, but there is literally nothing in place to help teachers or put in any protection for them in the industry.
“We feel we have to do this [protest] because it’s just being taken up in any serious way and we’re resolute about this,” he added.
The international English language teaching market is worth an estimated €762 million to the Irish economy, according to the Department of Education.