Fianna Fáil Spokesperson on Education, Thomas Byrne TD, has called on the Minister for Education to act as it was confirmed that the extension of the qualification period from one to two years for student teachers has exacerbated the teacher shortage. Fianna Fáil has previously identified the two-year Professional Master of Education (PME) programme as a block to teacher recruitment.

Deputy Byrne was commenting as a recently published report ‘The Structure of Teacher Education in Ireland’ by the Higher Education Authority (HEA) has found that the number of graduate teachers dropped by a third in recent years with factors such as decreased pay and higher costs for students contributing to the drop off in numbers.

He said, “It’s clear that the extension of the PME from one year to two, with no additional resources provided to either universities or students, is having a damaging effect on the numbers of teachers available and is being felt particularly badly in some areas.

“Last year Fianna Fáil launched a policy document which called for reform of the PME programme. Graduates of arts, science and other degree programmes are having to spend up to six years to qualify as a secondary school teacher, costing them a lot of money and keeping them from entering the workforce sooner.

“The HEA report says that the impact of the increase to two years of the teacher education programme needs to be considered further and I think this needs to happen as soon as possible.

“Given the HEA report it’s little wonder that there have been teacher supply issues in recent years. The changes to the PME programme have effectively choked off the pipeline of pupils. Fianna Fáil want to see the programme reduced to a one-year programme without compromising standards and graduate quality. The situation as it stands cannot continue”, he concluded.