Tuesday, 27 January 2004

Questions (379, 380)

Pat Rabbitte

Question:

489 Mr. Rabbitte asked the Minister for Education and Science his plans regarding the SCG requirement in the Irish language for primary teachers trained outside the State, to make the examination more realistic in view of the language level utilised in primary schools and the related teaching requirements; when a clear syllabus with contents of course, details of marking scheme and guidelines for candidates and SCG course providers will be available; if the review committee he established has reported to him and its views on the five-year time limit now applying to applicants seeking to secure the SCG; the assurances he will give to teachers who have not secured the full SCG that they will get reasonable time beyond the five years to achieve the SCG; the position in respect of teachers who are not required to teach Gaeilge, including certain special schools, resource, learning support and special class teachers; the reason such teachers are required to take SCG; if time will be counted against the five year limit only during school years when teachers referred to above are actually teaching Gaeilge; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [1743/04]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Education and Science)

Teachers in national schools are generalists rather than subject specialists and must be qualified to teach the range of primary school subjects to children aged four to 12 years. Accordingly, applicants must satisfy the Department of Education and Science that they are competent to teach the Irish language and to teach the range of primary school curricular subjects through the medium of Irish before being granted full recognition to teach in mainstream classes in national schools.

Teachers trained outside the jurisdiction of the State, whose qualifications have been assessed and accepted by my Department, but who do not possess an appropriate Irish language qualification, are granted a five year period of provisional recognition to teach in mainstream classes in national schools. During this period these teachers are expected to obtain their Irish language qualification. To become fully recognised, they must pass the written, aural and oral parts of an examination in the Irish language an scrúdú le haghaidh cáilíochta sa Ghaeilge, SCG. These teachers are remunerated in the same manner as fully qualified teachers during the period of provisional recognition. The SCG examination is held twice each year in four centres, Athlone, Dublin, Cork and Sligo. Applications for the examination are processed by primary administration section 1 of my Department in Athlone. Applicants must be holders of provisional recognition.

The report of the working group, that was established in 2001 to review all aspects of the syllabus and examination for the SCG, was recently submitted to me. Issues dealt with in the report include the content and format of the examination modules, the standard of the examinations and the period of provisional recognition granted to applicants within which they are expected to pass the SCG. The report is currently under consideration and decisions in respect of the recommendations contained in it will be taken in due course.

The review group has drafted an interim syllabus. The redrafted syllabus was circulated to all schools in December 2002 and the SCG examinations held on 29, 30 and 31 October, 2003 were the first series of SCG examinations to be based on this syllabus. The groups has also drafted a handbook for the examination. The handbook will contain detailed information on the SCG and will provide answers to a wide range of questions raised by candidates. It is also planned to produce a textbook of relevant prose and poetry for future examinations.

My Department grants restricted recognition to certain categories of teachers, who are not fully qualified to teach mainstream classes in national schools, to render them eligible to teach in certain special schools and in the categories of special classes in mainstream schools where Irish is not a curricular requirement. These teachers are entitled to be placed on the trained teacher's common basic scale. Such teachers are also eligible for posts as resource teachers for children with special needs in mainstream schools, but are not eligible for learning support posts in mainstream schools. Teachers who hold restricted recognition are not required to take the SCG unless they wish to teach in mainstream classes in national schools.

Pat Rabbitte

Question:

490 Mr. Rabbitte asked the Minister for Education and Science the reasons he has reduced the numbers on the postgraduate primary teacher training programmes this year, in view of the large number of unqualified personnel employed as teachers and the Government's programme commitments on class size in primary schools. [1744/04]

View answer

The graduate diploma course is a full-time course run to enable third level graduates to train as primary teachers. The course was introduced as a response to a shortage in the supply of primary teachers. It was first provided in the 1995-96 academic year in four of the colleges of education and has been repeated on a number of occasions since then.

There are currently 3,500 students enrolled and pursuing various stages of primary teacher training programmes in the colleges of education. Based on the significant increase in the output of qualified teachers coming from the colleges of education and having considered the range of additional measures in place to address the supply of qualified teachers, my Department has requested the colleges of education to provide another postgraduate course to commence early in 2004 and to revert to 280 places as had previously been the case. The position with regard to future years will be considered in the context of teacher supply and available resources.