The Minister for Education and Skills, Richard Bruton announced plans for the creation of subject quotas in certain courses being offered by third level institutions, in an effort to double the number of students choosing to enter primary and secondary teaching courses.
The introduction of these quotas would mean third level institutions will have to fill a certain number of places in subjects where there is already a shortage of teachers. The students who apply to be trained in these subjects will be given priority over people wishing to teach in subjects where the number of graduates is not currently an issue.
Concern has been growing amongst the education community more recently, with courses struggling to fill places and the number of students choosing to enter certain areas of second level teaching down for the sixth year in a row. Supply issues have continued to be a pressing issue for some second level subjects, which include Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) and foreign languages. Primary schools too have been affected by the shortages, with many schools struggling to provide substitute teachers who can fill short term positions.
Whilst speaking at the Irish Primary Principals Network (IPPN) meeting, Bruton discussed the proposed quotas and how they will attract students back into certain areas of teaching. He stated that the quotas “make it easier for schools to fill positions, by providing a guarantee of a certain number of places in each of these areas. It would be in the best interests of schools and learners for this approach to be adopted.”
Bruton spoke of the current government’s plan to significantly improve the Irish education system through increased funding and spending telling those at the IPPN assembly. “As part of the government’s plan to make the Irish education and training service the best in Europe within a decade, we have prioritized investment in education with total investment in education up by €1 billion since I was appointed Minister.”
Despite shortages in some subjects, Bruton spoke of how the overall number of jobs being created for teachers and the number of graduates being hired reminds high. “We are creating more new teacher positions now than at any other time in the history of the state. Additional investment provided by government has allowed me to successfully recruit over 5,000 additional net new teachers in the last two years,” he said.
The Department of Education also aim to provide current teachers with the opportunity to train in new subjects where a shortage is evident, increasing the number of teachers able to teach in required subjects and improving the current stock of teachers overall employability.
In response to a current shortage of teachers, Bruton also announced that certain restrictions imposed on teachers will be suspended for the remainder of the 2017/18 school year. Teachers who are on a career break will be allowed to take up substitute teaching positions. In addition, Bruton announced that the Department would be advising school boards that career breaks should not be granted to teachers who work full-time positions while on a career break.
When speaking of career breaks, Bruton said: “These are important and worthwhile. However, its purpose is not to facilitate someone taking another full-time job, while retaining the right to return to their former teaching job at any point for up to five years.”