I am aware of the case referred to by the Deputy. The background to this case is that in October 2017, I announced changes to the minimum entry requirements into primary teacher training programmes, as follows:
Entry 2018 - Irish: H5, English: H7/O5, Maths: H7/O6
Entry 2019 and entry 2020 - Irish: H4, English: H7/O4, Maths: H7/O4
The changes that I introduced took account of advice to me provided by the Teaching Council, which had engaged in a consultation process around a number of matters relating to entry to initial teacher education. Many of the issues identified were complex and the Council commissioned the ESRI (Economic and Social Research Institute) to carry out research to inform its deliberation.
Having relatively high minimum entry requirements (MERs) in core subject areas of Irish, English and Mathematics are one of the key policy levers that help ensure quality teaching and learning in primary schools. The 2011 Literacy and Numeracy Strategy and subsequent review identified the need to raise standards of achievement and included decisions to raise the entry requirements in the core subjects over time.
Students with a wide variety of backgrounds and studies apply for the Professional Masters in Education (PME) which is a consecutive qualification for primary teaching undertaken by students who already hold an undergraduate degree. While some undergraduate courses may have more direct relevance to education than others, there is no course provided by any college that is recognised by the Department or the Teaching Council as being a necessary or natural precursor to taking on the PME.
In determining the revised entry requirements, care was taken not to disadvantage those students who have already commenced the senior cycle and who intend sitting the Leaving Certificate examinations in 2018. Accordingly, I decided that the minimum entry grades for primary Initial Teacher Education programmes should be increased for 2019 rather than from 2018. However, to have applied this criterion to undergraduate students who might wish to apply for the PME at some time in the future would mean deferring the changes for four years or more.
In the case of graduates who do not meet the entry requirement in Irish, English or Math, it is open to the person to repeat the Leaving Certificate Examination or pursue a course of study leading to the one of the alternative qualifications in the subject(s) concerned outlined in the published Entry Requirements and Procedures for 2018.