I have accepted the recommendations set out in an International Review Panel report commissioned by the Higher Education Authority (HEA) on the structures of initial teacher education (ITE). The report recommended that teacher education be provided in six "centres for teacher education" and that Church of Ireland College of Education would be suitably positioned to join a number of the proposed new configurations. It is a clear objective of the restructuring that the quality of teacher education will be enhanced for all stakeholders. The Review Panel, in its deliberations, respected and was aware of the denominational governance of Colleges of Education. It heard a separate presentation from the Church of Ireland College of Education. The Panel did not make any recommendations in relation to denominational matters other than to note that student teachers of any denomination, or none, are accommodated and afforded opportunities to prepare, according to their individual wishes, for the teaching of religion.
In the course of consideration of the report, I have advised the college authorities that while I cannot support the Church of Ireland College remaining on their current campus, I am happy for them to negotiate their own destiny, consistent with their desire to protect their ethos within the broad parameters of the HEA report. CICE has publicly signalled its intention to join DCU, St Patrick's College, Drumcondra and the Mater Dei Institute and I understand that progress is well advanced in this regard. It is of course open to any individual college to consult further with the stakeholders relevant to its own context at any time.
My Department and the HEA are in contact with the consortia to monitor progress and a full implementation plan is expected to be submitted to HEA shortly. I am committed to ensuring that all primary schools have a sufficient supply of appropriately trained teachers. In this context the Deputy may wish to note that I signed the Church of Ireland College of Education Order under the Employment Equality Act 1998 (section 12) last year. This Order permits the College to reserve 32 places in the first year of the Bachelor of Education degree course for students who are members of the Church of Ireland or who belong to the broad Protestant tradition during the academic years 2012/13 to 2017/18 inclusive.