The finding emerges from research for the Teaching Council which shows pay cuts and other changes to conditions have not deterred high numbers and academically strong school-leavers seeking entry to the profession.
The ASTI dispute on recently-qualified entrants has highlighted changes to pay for those who started teaching since 2011 which it and other unions claim risk a falloff in interest in teaching careers from high-quality applicants.
However, Economic and Social Research Institute Professor Emer Smyth says the new study shows the profession has not lost its attraction despite reductions in pay and conditions, and cuts to education funding during the downturn, and the shortage of permanent positions. “There’s no early evidence of a shift, either in the number of applicants or academic performance of those applying,” she said.
She and ESRI colleague Merike Dermody examined the potential impact of increased entry requirements for those hoping to get into undergraduate programmes to become primary or second-level teachers.
In 2012, the Teaching Council set out proposals that would see the standards in Leaving Certificate English, Irish and maths increased for the primary education courses.
Following consultation with various stakeholders and consideration of the ESRI report, which was published yesterday, the council submitted final recommendations to the Department of Education late last year.
Taking 2013 Leaving Certificate results, the ESRI found 5% of students — about 2,000 to 2,500 — would meet the standards initially proposed, compared to 27% who meet the requirements. One-in-seven current primary teaching students would have met the proposed new minimum grades.
The biggest numbers falling down on the suggested increase from a D in higher or ordinary level maths to a C in higher level only, although the Teaching Council has modified the proposal to include a higher level D.
“If you increase the standard in English, and particularly in Maths, you’re going to restrict the potential pool of entrants,” Ms Smyth said.
She said that the changes could compound existing restrictions for certain categories of students, including those at disadvantaged schools, from getting into the courses. The high demand for places mean significant numbers get in with over 500 CAO points, and entrants are disproportionately female and more likely to be socially advantaged.
“Entrants to initial teacher education are less likely [under the proposals] to be attending a Delivering Equality of Opportunity in Schools school, and less likely to have come through non-traditional routes like further education,” Ms Smyth said.
Gender imbalance is less pronounced among students studying to become second-level teachers, but the ESRI report also points to possible consequences of proposed Leaving Certificate subject requirements specific to certain post-primary teaching degrees.
For example, only a small pool of students take Leaving Certificate art, music and religious education as an exam subject, or combinations of science subjects.