Written Answers - Teaching Qualifications.

Tuesday, 23 February 2010

Dáil Eireann Debate
Vol. 703 No. 1

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  509.  Deputy Jimmy Deenihan  Information on Jimmy Deenihan  Zoom on Jimmy Deenihan   asked the Minister for Education and Science  Information on Batt O'Keeffe  Zoom on Batt O'Keeffe   the number of second level teachers of maths who have a full maths degree from university or third level college; if it is the situation that teachers in vocational education committee schools of maths must have had maths for their degree; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8830/10]

  529.  Deputy Seán Sherlock  Information on Sean Sherlock  Zoom on Sean Sherlock   asked the Minister for Education and Science  Information on Batt O'Keeffe  Zoom on Batt O'Keeffe   his views on the report (details supplied) on out of field teachers, particularly the finding that 48% of surveyed teachers teaching mathematics in post-primary schools have no qualification in mathematics; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9136/10]

Minister for Education and Science (Deputy Batt O’Keeffe): Information on Batt O'Keeffe  Zoom on Batt O'Keeffe  I propose to take Questions Nos. 509 and 529 together.

The report in question is based on questionnaires completed by 324 teachers in a representative sample of 51 schools. The report showed that all but one respondent were fully qualified as teachers, but 48% did not have a major qualification in mathematics. Of the latter group 35% had a Bachelor of Science degree, 34% had a Bachelor of Commerce or Business degree and 27% had a concurrent teacher education degree.

The study showed that 30% of students in the 51 schools were taught by a teacher without a major qualification in Mathematics. Such teachers were generally deployed to teaching Ordinary, Foundation Level or Leaving Certificate Applied students, mainly in the junior cycle. There were no teachers without a Mathematics qualification teaching at higher level in the Leaving Certificate classes, and only 4.5% and 3% respectively taught at higher level in the second and 3rd years of junior cycle.

The study did not undertake any analysis of the teaching approaches used by the respondents or associate the data in any way with student performance.

To be registered as a teacher of mathematics with the Teaching Council, a person is required to have a recognised teaching qualification, and a degree in which Mathematics represents at least 30% of the course over at least 3 years, and which qualifies them to teach the syllabus to the highest level. A teacher in a VEC school is required to hold a degree in Mathematics which [262]meets these criteria, but is not required at present to hold a teaching qualification. From 1 April 2013, all post primary teachers registering with the Council will be required to have a teaching qualification.

The data from the Teaching Council in 2009 suggested that 65% of those teaching mathematics have Mathematics as a major qualification in their degree. This figure was deduced by applying the number of Mathematics teachers registered with the Council in February 2009 (3858) to the estimated number of Maths teachers in second level schools (5900). Registration with the Teaching Council does not mean that a teacher is currently employed or that they are deployed to teaching mathematics, but the figure of 65% is a reasonable estimate based on the data available. The updated information as of February 2010 from the Teaching Council indicates that 4005 teachers are registered with qualifications in Mathematics.

Once a teacher is recruited into a school the deployment of him/her to subjects and teaching duties is a matter for decision by the school authorities. Clearly the qualifications of the teacher is an important factor in this decision, but there are other constraints also, such as the numbers of students and class groups choosing different subjects, the overall pupil-teacher ratio, the mix of qualifications available among the staff, and the balance of full-time and part time staff available.

The deployment of teachers to subjects which are not part of their major qualification is also a feature of education systems in other jurisdictions. For example, the report shows that Finland, Canada and Australia, which ranked 2nd, 6th and 8th respectively in Maths out of 57 countries in the 2006 OECD PISA (Programme of International Student Assessment) study had 68%, 25% and 72% respectively of students taught by certified teachers with mathematics as a major qualification.

A major programme of reform in Mathematics is under way in 24 schools at present under the Project Maths Initiative. This will begin in all schools in September and is being supported by an extensive investment in professional development for teachers. Some €5m is being invested in this area in 2010, building on a €3m investment in 2009. The programme of professional development for teachers will continue to at least 2013. Upskilling teachers through post graduate programmes will form a major element of the implementation of Project Maths, and funds for intensive programmes have been provided in 2010 to begin this process. A particular target for intensive courses will be those teaching maths who do not hold a major qualification in the subject.

In addition to this, the Teaching Council will be examining the recent research report on the out-of-field teaching of maths and will work with the other education stakeholders in terms of developing appropriate responses to the issues raised.

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