I propose to take Questions Nos. 176 and 179 together.
Additional investment has allowed the successful recruitment of over 5,000 additional teachers in the past two years. Since 2012-13, there are 8,900 more teachers in our schools. No other part of the public service has seen this sort of growth, which is testament to the Government’s commitment to education and its importance in fulfilling our national ambitions.
I have already announced a number of measures to increase the pool of teachers available to schools, in particular to fill short-term vacancies, including informing all teachers retiring in 2017 that in order to remain eligible for employment in a State-funded teaching post for a period of more than five consecutive days or to supervise the State examinations, a teacher must maintain his or her registration with the Teaching Council. I have also recently announced the temporary suspension of the limits for employment for a teacher on career break.
At post primary level certain initiatives have been taken to address some of the supply pressures in particular subject areas. These include, as part of the implementation of the Policy on Gaeltacht Education, increasing from 2018/19 the number of places available on the existing Irish medium post primary initial teacher education programme in NUIG. The number of students admitted to St. Angela’s, Sligo to follow the Home Economics initial teacher education (ITE) programme has also increased from 85 to 101 in the current year, with further expansions in future years being considered.
Other measures under consideration include:
- How to introduce subject quotas for post primary PME ITE programmes, targeted at areas of shortage
- Expansion of the undergraduate route to becoming a post primary teacher
- Development of innovative ways to meet areas of shortage including consideration of top up” or conversion courses to upskill existing teachers to teach in subject areas of shortage.
I will shortly be announcing the establishment of a Teacher Supply Steering Group to develop a strategy for teacher supply. As part of its remit, the Group will consult with key stakeholders.
I will also ask the Teaching Council to review subject criteria and processes for assessing out of state qualifications, including further engagement with the Migrant Teacher Project and to engage more with graduate fairs, and final year students
Separately, I will be also be working with employers, school management bodies and higher education institutions to achieve progress in this space.
The Deputy may wish to note that the numbers of graduates from ITE programmes have remained broadly constant. Over 8,000 primary and 7,800 second level teachers have graduated in the last five years and in 2018 it is estimated that approximately 1,870 primary and 1,523 post primary teachers will graduate. In addition, the number of applicants for primary school teaching (both undergraduate and postgraduate) and for second level teaching at undergraduate level have remained broadly constant. However, I acknowledge that there has been a fall in applications to the second level PME. I will be asking the Teacher Supply Steering Group how the post primary PME can be made more attractive and I will also consider whether we can use financial incentives to improve the uptake of certain courses.