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Quinn is against plan to raise Irish level for teachers

EDUCATION Minister Ruairi Quinn has voiced his concerns about a proposal to raise the standard of Irish required for trainee primary teachers.

It is among a number of suggestions from the Teaching Council in a package aimed at boosting literacy and numeracy levels.

The council wants the minimum Irish entry requirement for trainees raised from Higher Level C to Higher Level B.

Mr Quinn yesterday echoed concerns expressed by Labour backbencher and former primary school principal Aodhan O Riordain.

The minister said that setting a very high standard for Irish would exclude students from disadvantaged areas which have lower Leaving Cert performance levels from going into teaching.


"Raising the threshold of competency in Irish is not going to facilitate those kind of people becoming teachers," he said.

Mr Quinn was speaking after a conference on teacher training organised by the Teaching Council and being held as part of Ireland's EU presidency.

He said a diverse society needed a diversity of teachers, not a "one size fits all" approach which "streamlined a particular cohort into teaching".

The minister said there was a problem in some communities where there was a disconnect between the teacher and the pupils that led to low levels of performance and dropouts.

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He added that it was a complex area, and he would await with interest the analysis of submissions made to the council consultation process.

Mr O Riordain has told the council that secondary schools in disadvantaged areas are rarely in a position to offer Higher Level Irish to their students.

"Poorer families do not have the resources to pay for grinds or to send their children to the Gaeltacht on summer courses," he said.

He added that while the requirement for teachers to have the ability to teach Irish was a cornerstone of education policy and must be preserved, those skills could be provided during the training years.

As well as higher grades in Irish, the council has also proposed raising the minimum entry requirements in English and maths.

St Patrick's Teacher Training College in Dublin has come out strongly against such a move, saying that raising the requirements in the three subjects would rule out about half the entrants to teaching every year, all of whom got a minimum of 470 CAO points.

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