Friday 21 July 2017

Fears cuts to further education will result in dumbed-down courses

Education Minister Jan O’Sullivan
Education Minister Jan O’Sullivan

Katherine Donnelly, Education Editor

A TEACHERS' leader has warned that courses taken by about 50,000 post-Leaving certificate students and the unemployed every year run the risk of being dumbed down because of rationalisation in the further education and training sector.

An increasing reliance on private providers to run courses is expected as Education and Training Boards (ETBs) take over the training functions of the former State agency, FAS, under the umbrella of a new State body called SOLAS.

Teachers Union of Ireland (TUI) vice-president Joanne Irwin said they were concerned that this would lead to a fall in educational standards.

Private providers already duplicate some courses offered in the public system by ETBs and the union fears this will become a growing trend.

Ms Irwin said one issue for the union was that while its members were all recognised teachers, this was not necessarily the case for private providers, who engaged staff such as tutors and trainers on lower pay rates.

"We're all for having more students coming and getting upskilled, but we want to make sure they are taught by qualified educators and teachers," she said.

The TUI fears that the budgets available to the ETBs will put them under pressure to contract out courses to private providers to save money.

Meanwhile, the multi-denominational school body Educate Together has said it is disappointed that proposed new rules on school admissions do not tackle the issue of Catholic schools being able to give preference to a child who has been baptised.

Educate Together chief executive Paul Rowe said if the Government wasn't going to address that, then it must allow for more multi-denominational schools.

Education Minister Jan O'Sullivan has published draft legislation governing what schools may, or may not, include in their enrolment policies and practices. The proposed new law is intended to introduce greater equity and transparency to the process, and covers a range of issues such as what applications a school may prioritise in cases where there is more demand than it has places.

But it does not interfere with the exemption which allows denominational schools to give preference to children of their faith in order to "protect its religious ethos".

"The fact that an increasing number of Irish parents consider that it is necessary to get their children baptised in the Catholic faith in order to access publicly funded schools, rather than out of personal religious conviction, is a shocking alarm note for a modern democratic state", Mr Rowe said.

Irish Independent

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