12 January 2018
We write in response to Carl O’Brien’s article “Teacher Shortages risk damaging Education, School Managers say” published on the 8th January. Quite correctly, O’Brien identifies a crisis within the Irish education system where “school management bodies and unions have warned in stark terms how acute staff shortages are impacting in different ways across the primary and secondary system“(Irish Times 8/01/18). The impacts, we learn, are excessive free classes for students, teaching posts remaining unfilled, and, at times, teachers delivering subjects they themselves are unfamiliar with. One school manager is quoted as noting “[t]he situation managers find themselves in is ‘anybody is better than nobody’. This does not serve students or parents and managers, who know that they have appointed unsuitable staff and end up dealing with legacy issues long after the appointment date.” Solutions offered are familiar to those of us tuned into current teacher shortages namely enticements to attract retired teachers into practice, incentives for overseas teachers, and financial weighting for teachers working in Dublin.
There is however another solution that is much more accessible, and, we argue, a more appropriate fit. This is that the many graduates of Teaching Council of Ireland approved teacher qualifications in Further Education (FE) be allowed work in the post-primary school system.
Since 2012 eight Higher Education Institutions (HEIs) nationally have delivered Teaching Council approved Initial Teacher Education (ITE) courses to university graduated subject specialists graduating approximately 200 teachers a year. These students currently work in a range of FE settings from VTOS, PLC and youth-reach, to disability education, to prison education. Their experiential competence is highly respected and they teach with cutting edge methodologies. Yet they are de-barred from teaching at post-primary level.
Regulation 5 of the Teaching Council Act 2001 and the Teaching Council [Registration] Regulations 2009, states that those “… whose qualifications are not comprehended by regulations 2 (Primary), 3 (Montessori and other categories) or 4 (Post- Primary)” of the Act, can be registered by the Teaching Council as Further Education teachers. These teachers graduate from approved programmes as “…teachers of courses or programmes leading to FETAC (Further Education and Training Awards Council) awards (or equivalent recognised accreditation) on the National Framework of Qualifications in recognised schools” (Regulation 5.1.a.). However, these qualified teachers, for whom work is predominantly precarious (Immanent Maynooth University research, 2018), are not allowed to teach at Post- Primary level (See Regulation 5.1.b), despite the fact that those within Post- Primary schools are free to move between both realms; Post- Primary schools and Further Education (FE) colleges, without restriction.
In the case of Maynooth University, we have many fine educators amidst our alumni who not only hold a recognised teaching qualification in FE, but hold primary degrees (subject specialism) in subjects that include those O’Brien describes as “most pressing” such as Maths and European Languages, and Minister Bruton describes as “pinch points, such as science, Irish and other languages.” Some of our graduates have also extended their credentials to include Masters and even PhD studies. Yet they are currently ineligible to work within the post-primary school system.
Surely this inequality of treatment for qualified teachers should not be tolerated, but cannot now be tolerated in the face of a “serious shortage” according to Education and Training Boards Ireland (ETBI) the management body for over 200 secondary schools, and a “crisis” according to school managers and principals.
We are confident that, if school managers were to look towards this cohort of teachers, they would be rewarded with a wealth of experienced, reflective, and highly competent educators who would bring much sought after expertise to the school sector.
Dr. Camilla Fitzsimons, Michael Kenny and Angela McGinn, Course team for the Higher Diploma in Further Education, Department of Adult and Community Education, Maynooth University, Co. Kildare
Contact mobile and email: Michael Kenny 087 2549540 email@example.com, Camilla Fitzsimons 085 7639949 Camilla.Fitzsimons@mu.ie