Sinn Féin Education Spokesperson Seán Crowe, TD, has said that a report into teacher training in the State which recommends fewer colleges must not be used as a pretext for further cuts by the Government.
Deputy Crowe was commenting on the publication of a report by an International panel of experts that recommended the closure of smaller teaching colleges and the integration of others.
He continued: “I understand that the report recommends the existing 19 state-run institutions will be merged into six 'Centres for Teacher Education' and that there should be in place more rigorous cap on the numbers in teacher training due in part to the high levels of unemployment among teaching graduates.
“Of course the capping of primary school posts is one of the reasons teaching graduates struggle to find employment and the continual redeployment of retired teachers further limits their opportunities.
“I welcome any serious proposal that will lead to greater improvements in the way teachers are trained and agree that we should exam and mirror many of the progressive reforms that have been implemented in Nordic countries. The Report rightly acknowledges the high calibre of entrants to teacher education in Ireland which is amongst the best in the world and it seems to make A compelling case for a move to a "Finnish-style system", in which all teachers are educated up to Master’s Level.
I am conscious that the recommendations in this Report come at a time when cuts to teacher allowances have dis-incentivised and made it financially difficult, if not impossible for many teachers, including newly qualified teachers, to up-skill by taking post-graduate courses.
“There are well founded fears in the education circles and the teaching profession that elements of this report may be used as a pretext to implement further cuts particularly considering the government’s track record since coming to power.
"It is also important that careful consideration is given to the unique identity and ethos of the existing colleges and this must be retained as part of any restructuring of the current system.
Equally, there must be adequate access for people wishing to pursue a career in teaching and for rural parts of the country, like the North West region which are often neglected when these type of policies recommended in this report come to be implemented. “ENDS