Farm Ireland

Monday 19 February 2018

Lifeline for 150 farming students

Caitriona Murphy

Caitriona Murphy

Up to 150 agricultural students have been thrown a lifeline by the last-minute appointment of six new teachers to the Teagasc agricultural colleges.

Six new contract teaching posts have been approved for Teagasc agricultural colleges for a three-year period, the Department of Agriculture confirmed yesterday afternoon.

The posts, which will be an exception to the public service moratorium, were approved following consultation between the Minister for Agriculture, Simon Coveney, and the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform, Brendan Howlin.

Announcing the posts, Mr Coveney said he expected the exceptional approval of new posts to be matched by further initiatives by Teagasc to devote more resources to the agricultural colleges.

Confirmation of the extra teaching staff came just minutes before a crisis meeting between agricultural college principals, Teagasc director Professor Gerry Boyle, director of knowledge transfer Tom Kelly and education head Paddy Browne at Oak Park yesterday.

The meeting was held to examine the possibility of redeploying some Teagasc advisers into teaching posts in a last-ditch effort to increase the number of places available for students this September.

A meeting of the Teagasc board on Thursday had unanimously agreed that the organisation would expand the intake of students beyond the current limit, based on the huge interest this year.

Among the strategies under discussion at yesterday's meeting were the redeployment of Teagasc advisers, the contracting out of some modules to other consultants or specialists, and the overlapping of some practical work between different courses to free up staff. There are also plans to run additional courses at local centres.

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Mr Kelly, Teagasc's head of knowledge transfer, said that the easing of public staffing rules would have a dramatic effect on the number of college places available.

"Each extra teacher would result in 25-30 extra student places," Mr Kelly said.

Details of where the additional new teaching posts will be allocated are not yet finalised but Mr Kelly urged prospective students and worried parents to be patient.

"There may be additional places available so keep in touch with the different colleges in your area," he said.

Mr Kelly said students who were refused places on courses this year should get priority entry next year, but this was a matter for individual colleges.

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