Primary teachers call for number of training places to be cut

INTO General Secretary Sheila Nunan
INTO General Secretary Sheila Nunan

The number of training places for primary teachers should be reduced because Government cuts mean there are not enough jobs in schools, the head of their union has claimed.

At the Irish National Teachers’ Organisation congress this week, dozens of unemployed and non-permanent teachers vented frustration at problems finding work and at lower pay for those joining the profession in the last two years.

INTO general secretary Sheila Nunan said the best entrants are still attracted into the profession and are well trained, but newly qualified teachers are being demoralised and being forced abroad by a lack of work.

“Student teachers train at huge expense for jobs that don’t exist and in the long term we know it will damage professionalism,” she said.

“Some of this is down to the fact that Government are not controlling entry into the profession. We are actually training too many teachers.”

There are already limits on training places for non-EU students in medicine and other healthcare professions which command some of the highest Leaving Certificate points that Education Minister Ruairi Quinn hopes can be addressed by changes to college entry systems.

It is unclear how curbs on teacher training places would effect points. The Teaching Council is already considering an increase in English, maths, and Irish grades needed to get into courses, although the INTO and others say any shortcomings can be addressed in training.

Ms Nunan was responding to recent comments by Mr Quinn’s chief inspector, Harold Hislop, who said that limiting numbers on training courses had improved standards in other countries and it may be time to consider the possibility here.

Although he was focusing more on the quality of teachers entering the profession, fewer places for trainee teachers in State-funded colleges could arise anyway from plans approved by Mr Quinn last autumn for mergers and amalgamations of courses and providers. However, any lost places could be replaced by increased capacity in privately run = programmes such as Hibernia College’s postgraduate primary teaching degree, which had 713 graduates in 2011.

Ms Nunan suggested that Mr Quinn follow the example of Scotland, where every new teacher is guaranteed a job for a year, as long as they are not unpaid or low-paid jobs being represented as an internship scheme.

Impact deputy general secretary Kevin Callinan told the union’s education conference in Kilkenny that the trade union movement should look at supplying multiples of the current number of internships, because of fears about potential exploitation of the Government’s JobBridge work placement scheme and the future of community employment.

Mr Callinan said opportunities could be developed in every workplace in such a way that people really benefited under proper monitoring and control.

Numbers don’t add up

- Students listing teacher training as CAO first preference, Feb 2013: 4,563 (down from 5,500 in 2010).

- Total primary and second-level teachers graduated in 2011: 3,554 (up from 3,148 in 2007).

- Newly qualified teachers registered, Jul-Oct 2012: 2,900

- Rise in primary teaching posts due to pupil number growth in Sept 2013: 450

- Lowest CAO points for B Ed primary teaching degree, Aug 2012: 440

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