Applications for teacher training degrees increase

Education Minister Richard Bruton.

Applications for teacher training degrees have risen, despite increased awareness about pay inequality in the profession.

CAO data shows rises of up to 8% in demand in some categories of education degree in just one year.

The figures comes with a caveat that some courses may be newly created or have been moved into the primary education category by the relevant colleges. But they are also significant in the context of an overall 4.5% fall in CAO applications this year.

The total CAO applicants up to the main February 1 deadline was 72,643, down from nearly 76,100 last year. Of these, 62,751 are seeking entry to an honours (level 8) degree programme.

The numbers include 19,578 listing one or more teaching degree on their CAO choices, 311 or 2% more than a year ago. They are the first preference of nearly 4,900 of these applicants, subject to amendments to ordering of their course lists, up 199 or 4%.

A more specific categorisation table shows an 5% rise in mentions of primary teaching courses, with students picking them as their first preference up 8% from 2,578 to 2,783.

For level 8 courses leading to qualifications to teach at second level, total mentions and first preferences are up 2% and 4%, respectively, to 7,279 and 1,781.

The figures emerge two days after teachers and their unions protested outside the Dáil in pursuit of pay equality.

The starting salaries and broader pay scales were cut for all new public servants from 2011, but new teachers were hit more disproportionately than others due to the level of their pay made up of allowances that were removed or reduced.

Education Minister Richard Bruton has said that most of the difference between the pay of pre- and post-2011 teachers has been already clawed back.

However, he has been criticised for not offering a commitment to completely bridge the gap, which is likely to be included in part of a wider public service pay report due out soon.

Mr Bruton last night welcomed the significant rises in first preferences for primary and second-level education degrees.

“Teaching is a very attractive career option and I wish all students the very best of luck in their choice,” he said.

At the same time that pay inequality for new entrants to teaching since 2011 is being highlighted, Leaving Certificate and other applicants may also be attracted by the reported high pay for teaching jobs in the Middle East and elsewhere.

There is a 10% rise in first preferences for biological and related science degrees, being the first choice of nearly 2,500 CAO applicants.

But level 8 physical science degrees are the top choice of 36% fewer students than a year ago, and there is a 26% drop in first preferences for journalism honours degrees.

The Irish Universities Association welcomed the rising interest in teaching, but flagged a 7% drop in male applicants, compared to 3% fewer females.

“It would be important to know if these young men are applying for further education and training opportunities which would be a positive development, or if they are unskilled entrants to the labour market, which would have worrying longer-term implications,” said IUA academic affairs director Lewis Purser.

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