Castlebar Traveller Training Centre facing closure

The Senior Traveller Training Centre in Castlebar is on the road to closure after an order to cut 18 student places from courses next September.

Mayo VEC chief Katie Sweeney reported this week that a letter had been received from the Department of Education announcing that 300 of 684 places countrywide were being cut and, on a pro-rata basis, this meant Castlebar would have to reduce student numbers from 64 down to 46.

Cllr Pat Kilbane said it reflected an ongoing saga on national policy that was bound to create hardship. The places were very necessary, particularly in Ballina.

Padraig Cosgrove said the move could equate to the loss of seven teachers and that the only way was down.

VEC chair Cllr Jarlath Munnelly said the closing of the centre had been flagged for many years. “Clearly Travellers will have to access education through the mainstream but additional resources via PLC and Youthreach will be needed,” he added.

Cllr Blackie Gavin said it was very disappointing. “The closure of the Traveller centre will mean the loss of 10 part-time jobs and the work they do there is marvellous,” Cllr Gavin said. “This is a step backwards and you wonder what is the future.”

CEO Katie Sweeney revealed that demand for PLC courses — which provide training for after-school and mature students and act as a mechanism to enter third level college — was at an all-time high. Unfortunately, places were capped at 404 in the county, even though at the moment a total of 560 were enrolled.

Members agreed to lodge an appeal against the cap on PLC places with a view to growing these very popular courses in Mayo.

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