In recent years, management bodies and schools have reported difficulties in recruiting teachers. At post-primary level this relates mainly to the recruitment of teachers of particular subjects, including in STEM, as well as substitute teachers.
The Steering Group on Teacher Supply was established in my Department in 2018. The Steering Group is leading on the identification of issues, the development of a programme of actions on teacher supply and the oversight of its implementation.
The Teacher Supply Action Plan contains a range of actions in four policy areas identified through the work of the Steering Group and engagement with stakeholders. A number of the actions in the plan are targeted at increasing the supply of teachers of mathematics and physics. Following engagement with the Higher Education Authority (HEA), higher education institutions (HEIs) put in place new initial teacher education (ITE) undergraduate programmes in 2019 and 2020 in a number of post-primary priority subject areas, including mathematics.
In addition, I recently announced new level 8 scholarship programmes to upskill teachers in three subjects, including mathematics and physics. These programmes will upskill registered post-primary teachers to meet Teaching Council curricular subject requirements in the targeted subjects and allow them register to teach the subject at the highest level. These programmes will begin in January 2021 with a second intake planned for 2022. Each programme will run over two years on a part-time, flexible basis so as to ensure the best opportunity for teachers to participate, including those in partial or full employment and to facilitate participation of teachers on a national scale. Places are being provided on the mathematics and physics programmes for over 270 teachers. There will be no fee cost to participating teachers.
I wish to advise the Deputy that my Department has no plans at present to modify the duration of the postgraduate entry route to teaching.
Changes to the duration and content of all initial teacher education programmes were made in response to recommendations in the National Strategy to Improve Literacy and Numeracy among Children and Young People 2011-2020 and were incorporated into the Teaching Council’s Policy Paper on the Continuum of Teacher Education and Criteria and Guidelines for Programme Providers.
Improvements which have been made to initial teacher education programmes include the reconfiguration of the content and duration of courses, with the duration of concurrent ITE programmes set at a minimum of four years while the postgraduate programmes of teacher education are set at two years, thereby facilitating an innovative reconceptualisation of programmes.
The lengthened and reconfigured programmes include substantial periods of school placement as central to student teacher development and a number of core elements including literacy and numeracy, Inclusive Education, Global Citizen Education, Digital Skills, creativity and reflective practice.
These reforms focus on improving the quality of teaching in our schools, which is central to the educational outcomes of our children.