Quinn advises teachers to study RE to boost their job prospects

Catholic and Protestant teacher training colleges united in new secular home

Minister for Education Ruairí Quinn: “The more qualifications you have to be equipped to teach in any school seems to me to make sense.” Photograph: Alan Betson

Minister for Education Ruairí Quinn: “The more qualifications you have to be equipped to teach in any school seems to me to make sense.” Photograph: Alan Betson

Sat, Jun 21, 2014, 01:00

Teachers seeking to maximise their job prospects would be advised to study religious education, Minister for Education Ruairí Quinn has said at the announcement of a major reform in teacher training.

“I think the teachers will make their own career [choices] but the more qualifications you have to be equipped to teach in any school seems to me to make sense.”

He was responding to recent criticism of the way in which State-funded teacher-training colleges were advising students to take the certificate in religious studies (CRS) in order to boost their chances of getting a job.

Asked whether he had concerns about the CRS being used as an obstacle to employment in State-funded schools, he said: “We have 87,000 registered teachers and a large amount are in the primary area where this is critically important, and I would like to think they are equipped to work in any school.

“But the labour market will be determined first of all by where the teacher wants to teach and who the patron bodies are in that place, and in that regard I would like to see the divestment process that we have commenced proceeding.”

The CRS qualifies students to instruct pupils in either the Catholic or Protestant faith. Educate Together has since developed an ethics course which can be done as a secular alternative to the certificate.

Formal announcement

Mr Quinn was speaking at the formal announcement of a new Institute of Education, involving the merger of Catholic and Protestant teaching schools under the roof of a secular university.

Described as “the largest critical mass of education expertise on the island of Ireland”, the institute is being created through the coming together of Dublin City University, St Patrick’s College, Drumcondra, Mater Dei Institute of Education and Church of Ireland College of Education (CICE).

The Catholic Archbishop of Dublin, Diarmuid Martin, said the institute “reflects something of how the future of education in Ireland is progressing and how people wish it to progress”.

“We live in a pluralist society and our education must prepare people to live in and flourish within a pluralist society.”

As well as overcoming traditional divisions in teacher-training, he said the institute would provide an “atmosphere of excellence”.

A key element of the plan is greater focus on third-level research as this was identified as a weakness in existing training colleges.

The CICE had hoped to develop a twinning relationship with Trinity College Dublin, but negotiations fell through.

Yesterday the Church of Ireland Archbishop of Dublin, Michael Jackson, described the DCU-based institute as the “glorious fruition” of a long period of talks.