Sinn Féin spokesperson on Further and Higher Education Rose Conway-Walsh TD has accused the government of ‘selling-off’ primary teacher training.
Teachta Conway-Walsh said:
“Successive governments have allowed primary school teacher training to be sold off to the private sector.
“Since 2014, 4,223 of the total 11,856 newly registered primary teachers with the Teaching Council have come through one private college.
“More than 1 in 3 new teachers are from a single private college.
“There are two ways to become a primary school teacher. You can go directly into a Bachelor of Education or, after you get your degree, you can do back and do a Professional Masters in education.
“The government caps the number of places that publicly-funded colleges can offer. 1,000 Bachelors and only 200 Master each year. However, no such limit exists for private colleges.
“Whether by mistake or by design this has allowed for the steady transfer of training of future primary school teachers from the public to the private sector.
“Private colleges can provide a very good service and are run by dedicated staff.
“The problem with the current system is that the public colleges are not really allowed to compete with the private providers because of the imposed quotas.
“Due in part by not having to compete, private providers can charge far more for their service and students have little choice but to pay. “If we compare the price of doing a Masters in education in a public college such as DCU, where it is currently €9,700, to the private college where it is €16,500 euro we see the substantial burden being placed on students who have no option but to go the private route.
“Each student, regardless of college, represents future primary school teachers that are sorely needed. They should have the right and ability to get that training in our public colleges.
“There can be strategic reasons for limiting the number of teachers trained. However, simply allowing the private sector to take over the role does not serve any public interest.
“The rationale the government has given that it is to control teacher supply. But when it only applies to public colleges and universities the real result is a transfer to the private sector of our teacher training.
“Minister Harris and Minister Foley need to explain the reason for this cap on public institutions training our future primary school teachers.”