Council is leading light for the future of teaching
As director of the Teaching Council, I am delighted to note that during his recent visit to Ireland, Dr Andreas Schleicher, special advisor on education policy to the OECD secretary-general, stated that teachers need to take ownership of their own profession. It may surprise him to know that through the Teaching Council, the teaching profession in Ireland is already doing so.
Dr Schleicher referred to teachers contributing to their own professional body – and working for the improvement of their colleagues – as some of the hallmarks of a profession, as opposed to an industrial organisation. Teachers are doing these things, and more, day in, day out.
Through school placement, co-operating teachers in schools support student teachers on their first foray into the most important profession in society. They liaise with their principal and the placement tutor from the college or university. This is a voluntary activity for these teachers, and a crucial contribution to the formation of the next generation of professionals.
Droichead, the council’s pilot programme for a new model of induction and probation, is a systemic welcome into the teaching profession for newly-qualified teachers by their fellow professionals.
It is about the process of support, advice and mentoring by these fellow professionals. Through this support, the quality of learning for both the new teacher and the pupils in their care is significantly enhanced.
Far from focusing on “short-term training courses to fix short-term problems”, the council is now reviewing all programmes of initial teacher education in the State in order to ensure that they are fit for purpose for teaching and learning in the 21st century.
All these courses have been extended to four years for concurrent programmes and two years for consecutive programmes. This work has been described as one of the most strategically significant projects in teacher education.
Last year, the council launched a pilot project giving registered teachers free access to the EBSCO Education Source package, a collection of research journals and eBooks. Reflecting a commitment to life-long learning, and professional development, over 33,000 searches were carried out by registered teachers in the first eight months of the project.
The full diversity and richness of teaching is celebrated and discussed in seminars and conferences up and down the country all year long. Most of these conferences take place in the evenings and on Saturdays, in teachers’ own time. They give of their time, energy, skills and resources so that fellow professionals can improve their own teaching.
This is exemplified in FÉILTE, the Festival of Education in Learning and Teaching Excellence, which will take place in October. Last year’s event was a visible celebration of the innovation that is happening in teaching and learning. It was a wonderful sharing of that innovation and learning to enthuse and energise fellow professionals.
These examples are but a fraction of the many ways in which the teaching profession in Ireland is realising the full vision of professionalism for itself and for pupils. They are the hallmark of a vibrant professional body which is leading the story of teaching, in partnership with others, so as to maintain and enhance the quality of teaching and learning for all of our learners.
Tomás Ó Ruairc is director of the Teaching Council