Wednesday, 24 May 2000
Dáil Eireann Debate
217. Mr. Enright asked the Minister for Education and Science the action, if any, he proposes to take regarding the extremely urgent problem of teacher shortages in primary schools and the serious affects this teacher shortage is having on children's education. [14632/00]
Minister for Education and Science (Dr. Woods): I am pleased to inform the Deputy that a range of measures were introduced by this Government to boost substantially the supply of trained primary teachers.
The intake of trainee primary teachers to the  colleges of education was increased substantially in the 1998-99 and 1999-2000 sessions. The total projected intake in the 1999-2000 academic year is 1,283 compared with an intake of 500 in 1996-97.
Between the 2000 and 2001 academic years it is projected that approximately 1,900 newly trained teachers shall graduate from the colleges of education. This represents a huge increase in the number of trained graduates as compared with 1995 when 291 graduated.
Persons who hold a primary degree may apply for admission to a post graduate course conducted by the primary teacher training colleges. These courses are conducted when it is deemed necessary to increase the supply of qualified primary teachers. The courses, which are generally of 18 months duration, enable a primary degree holder become fully qualified for appointment in a primary school.
A number of other initiatives to reduce the number of untrained personnel have also been introduced. 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 are now recognised as fully qualified.
Since September 1998, all primary degree holders who hold the higher diploma in education are paid as fully trained substitute teachers and in the current academic year those with grade C in higher level Irish in the leaving certificate are paid at the trained rate when employed in a temporary capacity. Those who do not have the grade C in the leaving certificate, but who commenced employment after 1 April 2000, are paid at the trained rate for up to 14 weeks.
Teachers trained in EU countries employed in primary schools are now remunerated at the trained rate pending their obtaining the necessary competence in the Irish language. EU trained teachers previously had to acquire the necessary competence in the Irish language within three years of their first appointment to a primary school. I am pleased to inform the Deputy that EU trained teachers now have up to five years to obtain the necessary competence in the language.
Montessori trained teachers who successfully completed the course of three years duration at St. Nicholas, Dún Laoghaire, which is recognised by the National Council for Educational Awards, are also recognised as being fully qualified substitute teachers.
The decision to recognise fully qualified teachers who trained outside the State to teach in certain categories of schools and classes without the necessity to hold an Irish language qualification is also contributing to an improvement in the supply of trained primary teachers.
218. Mr. Allen asked the Minister for Education and Science if he will take the necessary steps to avoid a situation where a school (details supplied) in County Cork will lose two teaching staff in view of the fact that these losses will have a serious effect on class sizes and efforts to cater for children in a disadvantaged area. [14671/00]
Minister for Education and Science (Dr. Woods): The staffing of primary schools is determined by reference to the enrolment of the school on 30 September of the previous school year. This is in accordance with guidelines agreed between this Department and the education partners.
The current staffing of St. Vincent's Convent is a principal and 24 mainstream class teachers based on an enrolment of 695 as at 30 September 1998. The school also has the services of two disadvantaged concessionary teachers, a remedial teacher and a home school liaison teacher.
The enrolment as at 30 September 1999, on which the staffing for the 2000-01 school year is based, was 644. The enrolment requirement for the retention of the 23rd teacher is 660 and for the retention of the 24th teacher is 690. Unfortunately, as the above school does not meet the retention requirements, two teaching posts will be lost as a result.
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