Adult (Further) Education
The figures for higher education shown above include expenditure for school leavers and adult learners in those institutions. This section deals with Further Education and Training i.e all education and training which is not part of initial schooling or higher education. Further education and training includes second chance programmes for early school leavers and the unemployed, non tertiary vocational training, apprenticeships, adult literacy and community education programmes. Education and VET are provided since 2010 under the single ministry of the Department of Education and Skills. Some 369,000 learners are catered for annually in the FET sector.
Provision is mainly funded by Education and Training Boards through:
Add on services for adults in vocational schools;
Designated specialist further education colleges;
Training centres operated in the past by FAS, the National Training Authority, until it was abolished and its programmes assimilated;
Other adult education settings;
Contracted out services to community or private providers.
Solas, the Further Education Authority, was established in 2013 with responsibility for policy, funding and monitoring of further education and training programmes in Ireland. Grants are channelled by the Department of Education and Skills to Solas and allocated by the Authority to the 16 regional Education and Training Boards.
The expenditure for 2015 was €294.410m
Financial Autonomy and Control
Solas approves the education and training plan for each ETB, and provides funding for specific nationally devised programmes. There is an overall Employment Control Framework limiting the numbers which may be employed in the FET sector, and within each ETB. Where funds are provided for specific contracted initiatives, ETBs are free to recruit additional staff on a contract basis.
Earmarked funding must be spent on the areas and programmes intended, most of which pre-date the establishment of Solas. Solas has discretion in the allocation of new places, and in the distribution of resources across the ETB system, having regard to the services already in being. The ETBs have discretion on the distribution of resources within their areas to the same extent.
The accounts of ETBs are subject to public audit, and are scrutinised by Solas. Both the ETBs and Solas are managed by governing bodies set out in legislation. Except for contracted out time bound projects, pay and conditions of staff are negotiated centrally by the Department of Education and Skills. The quality assurance arrangements for State funded FET are governed by Quality and Qualifications Ireland.
Solas established in 2013, is moving towards a process of outcomes based performance funding in ETBs, but the model has not yet been finalised. A data management system is also being developed.
Fees Paid by Learners
National programmes of Further Education and Training are generally provided free. The exception is that Post Leaving Certificate courses (full-time post secondary VET 1 and 2 year courses) attract a fee of €500 per annum. There is a waiver of fees for medical card holders or their dependents and for welfare recipients. Those who satisfy the means tested criteria of the Student Support Schemes can have their tuition fee paid by the State and receive maintenance grants (for PLC courses only).
Non EU/EEA students are required to pay the full economic fee unless they are asylum seekers at least 5 years in the Irish education system and not the subject of a deportation order.
Financial Support for Adult Learners
In general, persons in receipt of unemployment benefit or jobseeker allowances availing of other FET full-time programmes are paid a training allowance in lieu of their welfare entitlement, and their course is free. The Department also offers a free part-time Back to Education Initiative prioritising access for those with less than upper secondary education.
In addition to the above, further education and training centres may also offer part time courses on a self-financed basis. These may be courses of a hobby nature or lead to national certification. The fee is set locally but is generally modest.
Job seekers and unemployed benefit recipients generally receive a training allowance in lieu of welfare entitlements. Students on PLC courses are entitled to means-tested maintenance grants under the student support schemes. Other than this, grants are not paid to families.
State funded education and training centres are required, within available resources, to make reasonable accommodation for persons with disabilities. PLC course participants can benefit from the Fund for Students with Disabilities described above. Funds are not paid to families.
The State does not generally fund private education or training in the further education sector. However, there are a range of competitive funding streams aimed at the unemployed (such as Momentum, described in Chapter 14), and private providers may be successful in bidding for these.