€2.4m to help students from disadvantaged groups to become teachers
Students from disadvantaged groups will be encouraged to become teachers under a new €2.4m plan being unveiled by Education Minister Richard Bruton today.
It aims to have more than 120 students from sections of society under-represented on teacher training courses pursuing a career in the profession over the next three years, through a variety of pathways.
Teaching in Ireland is dominated by young, 'white Irish', middle-class women, which does not reflect the diversity of their pupils and also fails to provide role models to sections of society that are under-represented in school staff rooms.
In primary teaching, the high level of demand for courses pushes CAO points up, to the advantage of those who can pay for extra tuition, or who come from backgrounds where third-level education is embedded in the family culture.
Key aims of the initiative, known as the Programme for Access to Higher Education (Path), include raising the expectations of, and providing more role models for, students from under-represented groups.
It will target, in particular, students from socio-economically disadvantaged backgrounds, students with a disability and Travellers, and will encompass mature students, part-time students, lone parents, ethnic minorities and students who use post-Leaving Certificate courses as a stepping stone to third-level education.
A number of universities and teacher training colleges are being funded to provide a range of different projects, which were evaluated by international experts, to support the Path programme.
One will focus on supporting students in designated disadvantaged (DEIS) schools, from junior cycle up, to consider teaching, with accompanying academic supports in Irish and maths, and an opportunity to "taste" a teaching course. Another will work with teachers from DEIS schools to help them build the leadership and communications skills necessary to act as mentors for their pupils, and to help them to overcome any challenges.
Unprecedented opportunities for students on post-Leaving Certificate courses will include the first direct-entry route from further education into a teacher training programme, with post-entry academic, financial and personal supports.
Another project will work directly with communities with low participation rates in higher education to promote awareness of pathways into teaching as a profession and to provide information and relevant supports.
Today's announcement is part of a suite of measures promised by Mr Bruton to tackle educational disadvantage.
Mr Bruton said progress to higher education by people from disadvantaged backgrounds was a major goal, and, in the case of teaching, the 120 new teachers from this initiative would be role models and help others to follow.
"As teachers, they will have the potential to inspire a new generation of students to aspire towards higher education. Initiatives such as these have the potential to really help to break the cycle of disadvantage for many communities," he said.