Incentives other than increased training places will be needed to keep pace with growing demand for second-level teachers, Education Minister Richard Bruton has been advised.
The biggest challenge for those who take up nearly 400 extra teacher training places in the seven universities, from next year, will be finding schools where they can do their practical training.
At least 100 of the 280 extra undergraduate places will lead to a qualification to teach second-level subjects that have teacher shortages: for example, maths, science, Irish, and foreign languages.
The 100-plus places on postgraduate masters in education (PME) programmes will be exclusively for those seeking to teach these subjects, according to Mr Bruton’s announcement yesterday.
Anne Looney, dean of Dublin City University’s Institute of Education, said it is great that they, and other universities, can make additional places available to support the initiative. But, she said, catering for more students will require extra resources.
The Department of Education will provide colleges with the normal funding levels for every extra student, but Ms Looney said there are also staffing implications.
“But the biggest challenge of all will be to provide school placements for them. It’s really challenging to get school placements for student [numbers] we already have, across a range of subjects, not just the priority subjects,” she said.
A further difficulty may arise around priority subjects. Schools that have dropped a subject, due to staffing or other difficulties, will no longer have classes in which students can undertake their teaching practice.
The placement of student teachers has been more challenging, since the two-year PME replaced a one-year postgraduate qualification, for second-level teaching, in 2012.
“Schools are busy places and, with the longer teaching practice placements now, there’s also a bigger role for mentor teachers in those schools,” Ms Looney said.
The National Association of Principals and Deputy Principals also welcomed the extra teaching places, but its director, Clive Byrne, said extra incentives to attract students to a PME are needed, such as waiving fees for those training to teach priority subjects.
Fianna Fáil education spokesperson, Thomas Byrne, said high fees should be addressed, as there is little point expanding places, if people can not afford to pay for a postgraduate teaching degree.
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