A leading education college has shot down a proposal to demand higher Leaving Cert grades for primary teaching – saying it would actually cause a drop in standards.
The suggested change is part of wider efforts to improve teacher quality generally, and and so boost literacy and numeracy levels among primary students.
But St Patrick's College, Drumcondra, has come out strongly against it, insisting that rather than improving the standard of trainee teachers, it would have the reverse effect.
The Teaching Council, the watchdog for the profession, has been consulting with interested parties over its plans for revised entry requirements for teaching.
The proposal for higher Leaving Cert grades in Irish, English and maths has provoked concerns.
Currently, trainee primary teachers need a minimum of an Irish higher level C3, English higher level D3 or ordinary level C3, and maths D3, at either higher or ordinary level.
Under the proposals, new entrants would need an Irish higher level B, an English higher level B and a maths higher level C or ordinary level A.
Entrants to primary teacher training are among the best Leaving Cert performers every year, with a minimum of 470 CAO points.
But the council said concerns had been expressed about whether or not all successful applicants to teacher training had adequate levels of literacy and numeracy for the job.
However, St Patrick's president Dr Daire Keogh said that while some slight amendment to entry requirements might be appropriate, they could not see any reason for a change to the extent proposed.
Dr Keogh has warned that the new requirements might lead to a situation where there were not enough school-leavers with the higher grades.
In a submission to the council, he said that among the 2012 entry to St Patrick's, over half of the students who accepted places would not have met the proposed new entry requirements.
These were students who had a minimum of 470 CAO points – and many with more than 500 points and all falling within the top 15pc of Leaving Cert performers.
He said if proposed changes for English, Irish and maths were in place, the college would have had to go to its waiting list in search of students meeting the requirements.
But that would mean a lowering of points, with no guarantee that this process would secure the required number of students, he said.
Dr Keogh said the calibre of students entering teacher education was not in question, and a recent report concluded that the academic standard was amongst the highest, if not 'the' highest, in the world.