Quinn backs cut in teacher training colleges


TEACHER TRAINING in the State is set to be transformed, with fewer colleges, a sharper research focus and the establishment of new institutes of education in six centres.

An expert report backed by Minister for Education Ruairí Quinn recommends the closure of smaller colleges and the integration of others.

The report – by an international panel of experts – suggests there should be a more rigorous cap on the numbers in teacher training amid concerns over high levels of unemployment among teaching graduates.

The changes could also see both primary and second-level teachers being trained on the one campus.

On teacher numbers, the report expresses dismay that the issue of teacher supply and demand has not been addressed in Ireland as it has been elsewhere.

All of the main teacher training colleges have backed the proposed reforms at this early stage. But potentially controversial changes which could threaten the cherished identity and ethos of each college have still to be teased out.

Under one of the recommendations, St Patrick’s College in Dublin would be merged with Dublin City University and the Mater Dei Institute in a new centre based on the St Pat’s campus. The Church of Ireland College of Education (CICE) is also involved in the process aimed at establishing a new-style institute of education in Drumcondra.

The report points to potential difficulties in this process. “It is acknowledged that there is a genuine aspiration for integration (at Drumcondra) but the management plan for its implementation was not evident to the review panel,” it reads.

Education sources say special arrangements will be put in place to protect the Church of Ireland ethos in any new configuration.

Chairman of the board of governors of CICE, Archbishop Michael Jackson, and the Archbishop of Dublin, Dr Diarmuid Martin, have welcomed the proposed changes.

The key recommendation of the report is that six new institutes for education be established, replacing the existing arrangement whereby 19 State-funded colleges offer more than 40 programmes in primary and post-primary teaching.

Mr Quinn has asked the Higher Education Authority to submit a detailed report on how to implement the recommendations of the international review body.

He will then report back to Cabinet with more formal proposals including the financial implications of such a plan.

The report recommends the following mergers/integrations:

* Dublin City University with St Patrick’s College, Drumcondra and Mater Dei Institute of Education; a new campus is to be located at St Patrick’s. CICE is also involved in this process.

* Trinity College Dublin with Marino Institute of Education, University College Dublin and the National College of Art and Design. In a boost for Marino, the new institute could be based at its Griffith Avenue campus.

* The National University of Ireland Maynooth with Froebel College.

* University of Limerick with Mary Immaculate College and Limerick Institute of Technology; the campus may be located at MIC.

* University College Cork with Cork Institute of Technology at UCC.

* The National University of Ireland Galway with St Angela’s College Sligo, to be based at NUI Galway.

The report says smaller teacher training colleges in Letterfrack, Co Galway, and Thurles, Co Tipperary, should be closed, and St Angela’s College in Sligo, which trains home economics teachers, moved to NUI Galway.

It praises the high calibre of entrants to teacher education. It says a move to a Finnish-style system, in which all teachers are educated to master’s level, could be a longer-term aspiration for teacher education in Ireland.