Cog Notes: Fears for diversity of future staffrooms

Early findings of a national survey on diversity in initial teacher education raise concerns over a possible impact on the socioeconomic make-up of future staffs

The shift from one year to two years in the postgraduate programme for trainee teachers has delighted policy wonks who believe it will enhance the quality of the profession. But students are not entirely thrilled at what they see as a doubling of the cost of their education.

Moreover, early findings of a national survey on diversity in initial teacher education raise concerns over a possible impact on the socioeconomic make-up of future staffrooms.

The percentage of trainee teachers from the employers and managers group remained stable between 2006 and 2013 (dropping from 12.9 per cent 12.2 per cent). But in 2014, the proportion jumped to 19 per cent.

"This coincides with the change from the last one-year PDE [professional diploma in education ] to the new two-year PME [professional master's in education] programme," authors Dr Elaine Keane and Dr Manuela Heinz at NUI Galway point out. "A two-year master's programme is a much bigger time and financial commitment, of which we are very aware."

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The authors stress that the findings are interim and more research needs to be carried out “to have meaningful discussions about trends”. They record a significant increase in representation from the semi-skilled group – a target lower socioeconomic group – from 3.5 per cent in 2006 to 7.9 per cent in 2013. This has risen further to 9.5 per cent in 2014.

In contrast, those from farming families fell sharply – from 20 per cent in 2006 to 13 per cent in 2013, remaining at 13 per cent again in 2014.

“In spite of this decrease, those from farming backgrounds are still very significantly over-represented in relation to the general undergraduate population and the general Irish population.”

The project, funded by the Irish Research Council, plans to issue a final report next year. It is likely to make for sobering reading. The researchers note 92-98 per cent of trainee teachers at undergraduate and postgraduate levels claim Irish nationality, and over 95 per cent are “white Irish”.

“Our findings suggest that compared to the general Irish population and the general higher education undergraduate population, we have significantly less diversity in initial teacher education in terms of nationality and ethnicity.”

Stellar speakers at Galway event

Finnish educator and scholar Prof Pasi Sahlberg will be making a return trip to Ireland, acting as keynote speaker at a conference at NUI Galway on Friday, December 5th. Reforming Learning: Driving Success is being organised by Senator Fidelma Healy Eames.

The stellar list of speakers includes Prof John Coolahan and Prof Áine Hyland. The senator has also invited her "Continuity Fine Gael" colleague Lucinda Creighton to the conference, saying it will form a "white paper" on the senior cycle and third-level entry. The Reform Alliance is obviously expecting big things at the next general election.

Book at conference.ie/index

All-island schools history contest

After the success of this year's inaugural Decade of Centenaries All-Island Schools History Competition, entries are being sought for a 2015 renewal.

The 2014 winners, Scoil Cholmcille in Termon, Co Donegal managed to reunite a Co Tipperary family with a missing first World War service medal, and projects relating to events a century ago are likely to feature strongly again.

The competition, which is being sponsored by Mercier Press, is open to primary and post-primary students from schools across Ireland.

They can submit a project on any topic relevant to the school history curriculum.

All winning projects will be published online on www.scoilnet.ie.

The winners in each category will also receive a year's subscription to History Ireland, and one of the winners will also be considered for publication in the magazine.

The deadline for receipt of completed projects is April 3rd 2015. education.ie

College and further ed options

  • Schools are being invited to host events this week to promote awareness of further education and third-level options. College Awareness Week, which runs until November 30th, is endorsed by more than 20 national agencies, including the NAPD, the HEA and the Institute of Guidance Counsellors. collegeaware.ie
  • Aontas, the National Adult Learning Organisation, is seeking a greater input from adult learners to develop further education and training initiatives. The move is recommended in the agency's new strategic plan 2015-2018, which points out that such learners have "first-hand experience about the real-life barriers to participation". aontas.com