Dáil Éireann - Volume 500 - 10 February, 1999

Written Answers. - School Staffing.

180. Mr. Callely asked the Minister for Education and Science if there are sufficient qualified teachers to service the needs in the primary school sector; the position in relation to the secondary school sector; the measures, if any, he will take to balance the current position; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3716/99]

Minister for Education and Science (Mr. Martin): Since coming into office, I have been concerned at the large number of untrained personnel working within the primary school system. For these reasons, I have introduced a range of measures which are designed to boost substantially the supply of trained primary teachers. Specifically, I have ensured that the intake of trainee primary teachers to the colleges of education in 1998/99 was increased to over 1,000. This includes 748 students who will pursue the three year B.Ed degree programme, while 280 degree holders have been admitted to an 18 month full-time post-graduate training course. Additionally, B.Ed graduates of St. Mary's College, Belfast who have studied Irish to honours level as an academic subject as part of their teaching qualification will be recognised as fully trained.

I am also examining the possibility of the University of Limerick providing a one year conversion course for degree holders, who hold the Higher Diploma in Education and who have either Irish as part of their degree or have Irish to grade C at the leaving certificate or its equivalent.

I have further decided that from 1 September, 1998, all primary degree holders who also hold the Higher Diploma in Education shall be recognised as fully trained for the purposes of providing substitution service. Montessori trained teachers who successfully completed the course of three years duration at St. Nicholas, Dun Laoghaire, and which is recognised by the National Council for Educational Awards, shall from 1 September, 1998, also be granted recognition as fully trained substitutes.

[507] In relation to second level schools there had been some difficulties in finding trained teachers in a number of key subjects. A working group composed of representatives of the universities, my Department and the Higher Education Authority, under the aegis of the authority, was reconvened to undertake an in depth review of future needs for second level teachers. This review focused both on total needs and on needs by subject grouping, where feasible and examined all relevant factors such as pupil numbers, pupil teacher ratios, teacher retirements and career breaks. In light of the recommendations of the working group, I agreed to an increase in the number of places, from 800 to 940, on the Higher Diploma in Education courses for the current academic year. One hundred of the additional places are specifically for teachers of Irish, religion, Italian, Spanish and key sciences. The further 40 places are for the Higher Diploma in Education course through Irish which has been introduced at National University of Ireland, Galway.