Thursday 21 November 2019

Student teachers should be paid to work in schools to help deal with staff shortages, says Fianna Fail

(Stock photo)
(Stock photo)
Katherine Donnelly

Katherine Donnelly

Student teachers in their final year of post-graduate study should be paid to work in schools to help deal with staff shortages, Fianna Fail education spokesperson Thomas Byrne said today.

Mr Byrne said students on the two-year postgraduate Professional Masters of Education (PME) should be offered paid contracts of six to 12 hours a week.

While not the only route into teaching, the PME is used by many graduates of degree programmes in areas such as arts, science and business to gain a professional qualification.

The PME has replaced, and is of longer duration than, the traditional HDip and it means that by the time they hit second year, students will be in their sixth year of higher education and paying post-graduate fees.

Mr Byrne said the PME is “dysfunctional in its present form and is in dire and urgent need of review".

Reform of the PME is among the measures put forward by Fianna Fail in a 10-point plan to combat the shortage of teachers and primary and post-primary level.

Mr Byrne said the teacher supply issue was having an extremely damaging impact on students, teachers and principals, and responses to the problem had to be accelerated.

He warned that unless the issue was tackled in a comprehensive way, wholesale class cancellations and school closures "could become a reality in the future".

Mr Byrne said the lack of second-level teachers in subjects such as science, languages, Irish and home economics, threatened the education of young people and “utterly undermines all sorts of national social, cultural and economic objectives.”

Other measures proposed in the report include a road-map for restoration of pay equality for teachers, a recruitment campaign to attract the Irish teaching diaspora back home and a fast-track for migrant teachers to allow them to begin work in schools

Fianna Fail is also seeking more degree programme that integrate the professional qualification and which can be done over four years - an issue on which Education Minister Richard Bruton recently moved by approving more training places for September.

The party is also proposing a national form on teacher supply and a special unit within the Department of Education tasked with tackling the crisis.

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