Catholic and Protestant teachers to train together for the first time
TRAINEE primary teachers from the Catholic and Protestant traditions are to be educated together for the first time.
In a move that heralds a new era in Irish education, St Patrick's College, Drumcondra and the Church of Ireland College of Education (CICE), Rathmines in Dublin, will link up under a new umbrella.
Agreement has been reached on a historic merger as part of a wider and unprecedented rationalisation of teacher education.
The two primary teacher colleges will be key components of a new Institute of Education, to be headed by Dublin City University (DCU) and which will also incorporate Mater Dei Institute of Education.
The institute will become a faculty at DCU, split between Glasnevin university campus and nearby St Pat's, Drumcondra, where extensive redevelopment work is under way in preparation for the expansion.
Other teacher training colleges and universities are involved in similar discussions with a view to reducing the number of institutions involved in teacher education at both primary and post-primary level, from 19, to six "centres of excellence".
The DCU-led Institute of Education is the most significant, both because of its scale and breadth, including the coming together of the two denominations to educate their teachers under one roof.
In a powerful symbol of the groundbreaking nature of the move, the two archbishops of Dublin, Archbishop Diarmuid Martin and Archbishop Michael Jackson, attended the launch of a report outlining the vision and structure of the new institute.
The two church leaders described it as a "truly significant development" that represented an "exciting vision for the education of children in Ireland for decades to come".
DCU president Brian MacCraith said that September 2016 was the target date for the setting up of the new institute, which would become the first faculty of education in an Irish university.
While agreement in principle has been reached on the incorporation of the three colleges into DCU, a lot of detail has to be worked through.
The core curriculum at the new college will be denominationally neutral, but the new structures will allow for teachers to be prepared to work in schools of different religious traditions and none.
In order to ensure that the distinctive identity and values of teacher education in both the Catholic and Protestant traditions are maintained, two centres of denominational education will be established within the institute.
Education Minister Ruairi Quinn welcomed what he called a "flagship institute of education" and a "wonderful symbol of a mature, modern Ireland".
While the coming together of St Pat's and the CICE in a single entity is a particularly noteworthy element in the proposed merger, the new institute promises to become an "internationally significant" centre.
One of the driving forces of the rationalisation was to ensure that teachers were educated in a research environment such as a university.