Tuesday, 5 February 2019

Ceisteanna (202)

Thomas Byrne

Ceist:

202. Deputy Thomas Byrne asked the Minister for Education and Skills the actions he has taken to resolve the teacher supply issue. [4970/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Education)

Management bodies and schools have, in recent years, reported difficulties in recruiting teachers. At primary level this relates mainly to the recruitment of substitute teachers and at post-primary level to the recruitment of teachers of particular subjects (e.g. STEM, modern foreign languages, Irish and Home Economics).

In response to these difficulties, the Teacher Supply Steering Group was established in March of last year and the Group is chaired by the Secretary General of my Department.

The Steering Group is considering the issues that impact on teacher supply, including: initial teacher education policy, provision, funding and support; data/research requirements; policies and arrangements for schools and teachers that impact on teacher mobility/supply; and promotion of the teaching profession.

The Steering Group is overseeing the Action Plan for Teacher Supply, which was published in November 2018 with twenty-two actions in the four policy areas. These actions include:

- In December 2018, a national campaign for the promotion of the teaching profession was launched across a number of platforms, including radio and digital media.

- A new ‘Teaching Transforms’ webpage providing information about teaching as a career to school and third level students, as well as teachers not currently working in Ireland, was launched. The resource is available at www.gov.ie/teachingtransforms.

- Five regional focus groups were held for principals, teachers and parents to consider and respond to the Action Plan and to contribute new ideas. It is intended to hold a focus group for student teachers in the coming months.

- Following engagement with the HEA, a number of HEIs will provide new post primary initial teacher education (ITE) undergraduate programmes in 2019 in priority subject areas, including mathematics, modern foreign languages and Irish. The HEIs also plan to commence more new undergraduate ITE programmes in 2020.

- At the request of my Department, the HEA is to engage with the ITE programme providers: to develop new proposals for flexible options which will facilitate access to, and participation in, the PME in targeted subject areas; to explore the development of a programme to encourage and support teachers not currently in the labour force to return to teaching; and to explore the development of programmes to upskill existing teachers in targeted subject areas.

- An additional €1 million has been allocated in the current academic year to the Student Assistance Fund (SAF) for Professional Master of Education (PME) students who are experiencing financial difficulty.

- The Teaching Council, at the request of my Department, is reviewing the implementation of school placement guidelines for student teachers, with a particular focus on school/HEI partnerships.

- In the current school year the limits that teachers on career break can work as substitutes were suspended.

At this point the Steering Group and the working groups reporting to it have met on a number of occasions, and I hope to be in a position to make further announcements in the coming months.