Church and TCD in row over teacher training

 

Trinity College Dublin and the Church of Ireland are locked in an increasingly bitter dispute about teacher training, despite a long association in the area.

The board of governors of the Church of Ireland College of Education (CICE) say they are “deeply saddened” by Trinity’s failure to respond to its demands in discussions on a new teacher training college.

In response, Trinity registrar Prof Shane Allwright maintains the church college withdrew from negotiations on new arrangements for teacher training.

“It did not provide a response to the options presented, nor propose any alternatives,” she says.

The church college, based in Rathmines, Dublin, is set to close in about three years as part of a overhaul of teacher training in the State, which will result in the number of colleges falling from 19 to six.

As part of this process, driven by Minister for Education Ruairí Quinn, smaller colleges must build new associations with the universities and /or larger training colleges like St Patrick’s in Drumcondra.

It was widely thought that the church college – which trains about 30 teachers annually – would link up with the Trinity school of education, building on a relationship that dates back to the 1920s.

But the church college board has recently agreed to pursue “as a matter of urgency” formal discussions with Dublin City University (DCU), after negotiations with Trinity broke down.

The DCU governing body will oversee a new institute of education in Drumcondra, which will bring together St Patrick’s College, the Mater Dei Institute and the church college. These colleges have all given assurances about respecting the church college’s ethos – but some Church of Ireland members worry their distinct identity could be “drowned out”.

As part of the new process, Trinity is to link up with Marino Institute of Education.

The church college governors have accused Trinity of being unwilling to allow for the retention of its core principles in any collaborative arrangement. Critically, it claims Trinity was unwilling to allow for the retention of the CICE name or ethos, “as the university and its school of education described themselves as strictly secular”.

In a letter to the church college’s board in October, Mr Quinn made it clear it would not be funded unless it co-operated with the new strategic arrangements. “Maintaining a separate CICE presence . . . at the Rathmines site is not envisaged,” he wrote.

In her letter – published in the Church of Ireland Gazette – Prof Allwright said Trinity recognised the importance to the college of protecting its ethos, culture and traditions, and was open to considering, within its governance arrangements, a name that would reflect its history. “That Trinity is a secular university would not have prevented this – indeed, we understand that all publicly funded universities in Ireland are secular.”