Surprise at decision to invest €40m in St Patrick's teacher training college


THE GOVERNMENT’S decision to invest close to €40 million in the upgrading of St Patrick’s teacher training college has been greeted with surprise in education circles.

The move, announced by Minister for Education Ruairí Quinn, will provide new facilities and upgrade old, inadequate teaching laboratories and science facilities, according to the department.

The existing college was built to accommodate 800 pupils but more than 2,000 students now study there.

Mr Quinn, who has raised concerns about the governance of St Patrick’s and other teacher training colleges, recently announced a major review of teacher education.

St Patrick’s in Drumcondra, Dublin, is managed by Archbishop Diarmuid Martin of Dublin. He entrusts the management of the college, including academic appointments, to the governing body. However, he appoints the members of the governing body and retains the right to make appointments to the religious studies and religious education departments.

St Patrick’s is largely funded by the taxpayer; it received €14 million last year.

In 2010, the McCarthy report recommended cuts in State funding to five teacher training colleges, including St Patrick’s. It pointed to the oversupply of primary teachers .

It also highlighted how Hibernia College, the online teacher training college, is the largest provider of teaching graduates, at no cost to the taxpayer.

Mr Quinn ordered the current review of teacher education amid concerns about the duplication of courses and the content of teacher training programmes.

The review will put smaller colleges under pressure to link up or amalgamate with larger universities. It is also expected to back the establishment of “institutes of education”.

These will provide all levels of teacher education on one campus at centres of excellence around the State. Courses for pre-primary, primary and second-level teachers at undergraduate and postgraduate level could be rolled out in one location, according to education sources.

In an effort to boost literacy and numeracy skills in schools, Mr Quinn has also made changes to the content and length of teacher training courses, with much more emphasis on the actual skills of teaching.

Yesterday he said: “The funding I am making available to St Pat’s will mean that the college is equipped to provide the best possible learning experience to our student teachers.’’

It is expected that up to 400 direct and indirect jobs would be created in the construction project over two years.

Mr Quinn said the “good news for St Pat’s’’ will also ultimately be good news for teacher education with the move towards centres of excellence and encouraging more formal links between colleges and universities.