Universities resist quotas on teacher-training courses

Richard Bruton has proposed move to boost supply of science and language teachers

Third-level colleges are resisting plans by Minister for Education Richard Bruton to introduce quotas on the number of teachers they train in specific subjects.

As part of a series of measures to boost the supply of teachers in key subjects such as science, maths and languages, Mr Bruton has announced plans to introduce subject quotas for postgraduate teacher education programmes at second level.

School managers say many students are being left without qualified teachers in these subjects as a result of the shortages.

Dr Anne Looney, head of Dublin City University's faculty of education, said the idea of quotas for particular subjects ignored the fact that additional science and maths graduates were not applying to teach in the first place.


"In England, they set quotas and are left with thousands of unfilled places in teacher education programmes," she said.

“They added incentives, through fee reduction and starting bonuses, and still have a far greater shortage than we do, leading to the aggressive recruitment of Ireland’s highly regarded teaching graduates to fill their gaps.”

Figures compiled by school managers indicate there is an acute lack of maths, science and language teachers at second level, while there is an abundance of English, history and geography teachers.


However, Dr Looney questioned whether there was an oversupply of teachers in these subjects.

She said official data from the Higher Education Authority indicates that 90 per cent of graduates who qualified as postprimary teachers through the professional master's in education were in employment.

We will continue to advocate for university-based teacher education, and for a high-status well-paid teaching profession

Dr Looney said 90 per cent of those employed were based in Ireland, with 38 per cent in temporary whole-time posts, 17 per cent in part-time posts and 7 per cent in permanent jobs.

“ Ironically, when we look at the data for DCU, those with the subjects in greatest demand are more likely to be in part-time posts, because ‘hours’ are more likely to be available in a subject like physics, taken by a small number of students,” she said.


Dr Looney said measures such as the sharing of specialist teachers between schools should be explored, along with guaranteeing full-time jobs on qualification , at least for a couple of years.

She said DCU was planning to extend its range of undergraduate teacher education programmes.

“We will be announcing the first of these shortly. And we will continue to advocate for university-based teacher education, and for a high-status well-paid teaching profession,” she said.

Mr Bruton has said subject quota are just one of a number of measures he was examining in this area. He is due to meet with the Teaching Council shortly to discuss the outcome of a meeting of a consultative forum on teacher supply, which included higher education institutions, school management and teacher unions.

At a forum meeting last week, some stakeholders urged a cap on the number of English, history and geography teachers being trained, and a solution to the high cost of postgraduate courses.

Carl O'Brien

Carl O'Brien

Carl O'Brien is Education Editor of The Irish Times. He was previously chief reporter and social affairs correspondent