Friday 24 May 2019

Six-year route to qualifying as secondary school teacher is 'too long'

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Katherine Donnelly

Katherine Donnelly

The six-year route to qualifying as a second-level teacher is too long, too expensive and contributing to classroom shortages, according to a second-level school leader.

As principals continue to struggle with filling vacancies, the president of the Association of Community and Comprehensive Schools (ACCS) will tell Education Minister Richard Bruton today "we need to look at teacher training differently".

Antoinette Nic Gearailt will argue that "at a time of almost full employment, with high-spec jobs available after a four-year degree programme in many disciplines, the length of teacher training with its associated costs, is a disincentive".

There are a number of routes into a second-level teaching career, one being a typical four-year undergraduate degree, such as in arts, topped up with a two-year postgraduate programme.

The two-year Professional Masters in Education (PME), which costs €12,000 a year, replaced the traditional nine-month HDip as a measure to enhance teaching standards in schools. It has seen a big drop in applications.

The lengthy training is often compounded by a wait of several years to build up full-time hours.

Some universities also run shorter, less costly courses - known as concurrent programmes - which integrate the undergraduate course with the professional training element.

Second-level schools are struggling to recruit teachers in a number of subjects including Irish, physics, home economics and languages.

Ms Nic Gearailt will state: "The reality is that we are competing in a global employment market where young graduates see very attractive employment coupled with the opportunity to travel, earn substantial money and often to pay off college debt or to have a realistic chance of securing a mortgage. Now we must win hearts and minds."

If teaching was to win its share of talented young people, the two-year PME "needs to be revisited. The routes into the profession need to be expanded and a wider range of concurrent degree programmes would help in this regard."

She will add that while the ACCS appreciates solutions will take time to impact in schools, "the current situation, where 'piece-meal' solutions are put in place, are not sustainable".

As one contribution to resolving problems in the short-term, Ms Nic Gearailt will suggest that schools should be able to employ second-year PME students who are not contracted for a defined number of regular part-time hours.

"After all many of them are working part-time jobs to sustain themselves financially," she will say.

The ACCS president will also express concern to the minister about a recession-era moratorium. This resulted in the allocation of one clerical officer and one caretaker to schools, regardless of size or need. She will argue this has had a detrimental effect, with principals having to step in to do administrative and maintenance functions.

Irish Independent

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