COVID-19 Transfer and Accommodation Protocols for arriving Students (Ireland)

In order to reassure the Irish government that it is safe for language schools to recruit international students and to continue operating face-to-face classes MEI schools are introducing temporary safety measures.

The Irish Department of Further and Higher Education suggested that all English language schools should voluntarily stop recruiting students from abroad during the COVID-19 crisis. The Department of Justice (which regulates student immigration and visas) has also recently suggested the same voluntary suspension of recruitment of students, and has already temporarily suspended the issuing of visas to English language students.

As an industry, we are very concerned that this voluntary suspension of student recruitment could become an obligatory suspension of recruitment in 2021, if we don’t all work together – schools and agents – to reassure the Irish government departments that it is safe for us to operate and recruit international students. As such, our association, MEI, has worked tirelessly as part of the ELE working group which meets with government departments, to discuss how our industry can continue operating safely during the COVID crisis.

Agreement has now been reached with the government departments that all quality schools must agree to very clear COVID-19 protocols, over the coming months, if they are to continue recruiting students in 2021. Most of the protocols concern operations at the school and have already been in place at Atlas Language School since August 2020. However, there are a couple of areas which will change and these mainly concern (1) airport transfers and (2) accommodation on arrival.

1. Airport transfers

All newly arriving students must book a school-facilitated airport transfer to their accommodation. The student must not take public transport to their accommodation. The airport transfer has to be in a vehicle with adequate safety precautions, i.e. masks worn at all times, perspex screen between front and back seats, no contact policy, etc. For the time being we are reducing our airport transfer fees in order to support our students and agencies.

2. Accommodation on arrival

All newly arriving students must stay in appropriate accommodation, for a period of 14 days of restricted movement. Appropriate accommodation is described as:

– school-facilitated accommodation;
– single bedroom, or shared bedroom with 1 other student, if the 2 students have travelled together;
– the house or apartment or residence must not be overcrowded, unsafe or unhygienic.

Students must book this approved accommodation to restrict their movements for 14 days.

As agencies, some of you have local operators in Ireland for accommodation and airport pick-up. It is vital, that your local operators work with Atlas to ensure compliance with the ELE Ireland Covid-19 protocols.

In addition all students arriving into Ireland need a negative PCR test taken 72 hours before departure.

While we understand that these new terms and conditions may be frustrating for students, these are extraordinary times, and if students still wish to travel during a pandemic, this is the ‘new normal’ until the pandemic is under control.

The main objective is to create a safe environment for all our students and staff, and to work with and show the Irish government departments that it is safe for students to arrive in Ireland from countries all over the world to study English. As schools and agencies, we need to think long-term, follow the protocols and work together over the coming months.