The final report of the Technical Working Group on teacher supply, ‘Striking the Balance’, focussed on the development of a model of primary teacher supply while outlining the work required to establish a long term model of post-primary teacher supply.
The report is a useful reference point for the continuing work being undertaken in this area and, since the publication of “Striking the Balance”, my Department has put in place structures to develop and oversee a comprehensive set of actions to support teacher supply. This work is being led by the Teacher Supply Steering Group established in March 2018, which is chaired by the Secretary General of my Department. The Steering Group is considering the issues that relate to 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 I published in November 2018 with twenty-two actions in the four policy areas. These actions include:
- 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.
- The HEA is engaging with HEIs regarding the development of programmes to upskill existing teachers in targeted subject areas and to examine potential for flexible ITE programmes.
- 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.
- My Department is currently undertaking an analysis of the potential for a primary school substitute teacher supply panel scheme.
- My Department has recently published Circular 0015/2019 with details of a new teacher sharing scheme for post-primary schools, commencing in the 2019/20 school year.
- 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. The campaign is supported by a new webpage providing information about teaching as a career (www.gov.ie/teachingtransforms).
- A Consultative Forum was held in November 2018 to ensure that all stakeholders were kept aware of the measures being considered and implemented and to facilitate their input and participation.
- Five regional focus groups were held in December 2018 and January 2019 giving teachers, principals and parents an opportunity to consider and respond to the Action Plan and to contribute new ideas.
- The development of an online teacher and substitute teacher recruitment portal is being explored.
The Steering Group and the various working groups reporting to it continue to meet on a regular basis and I hope to be in a position to announce further developments in this area over the coming months.