General Teaching Council Northern Ireland

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Project raises concern at lack of teacher diversity


28/07/2008 :: Northern Ireland :: The Irish News

The teacher education system in the north is facing significant challenges, an expert from the University of Ulster has said.

Professor Alan Smith led a research project into teacher training in the north, funded by the Economic and Social Research Council based in Swindon, Wiltshire.

This research focused on areas such as oversubscribed courses, employment opportunities and college recruitment.

The jobs crisis facing teachers is well-documented - only a small percentage of graduates last year secured permanent work.

Prof Smith's team found that teaching continued to be a popular career choice in the north, with a high level of over-subscription to most courses.

In broad terms there were up to 10 applicants for every available place.

There has also been a significant decline in the number of available training places, with the intake being cut from 883 in 2003/04 to 594 in 2008/09.

Prof Smith found that recruitment into teacher education was still heavily dependent on interviews which were relatively labour-intensive and expensive.

He said that concerns had been raised about a lack of diversity in the intakes in terms of ethnicity, gender and, in some cases, religious affiliation.

Alongside this, some courses were attracting students from a variety of socioeconomic groupings as well as increasing numbers of mature students.

The research further found that there had been significant changes affecting teacher education, including a projected 15 per cent decline in the number of pupils aged 11 to 15 by 2024.

Alongside this, beginning teachers were finding it more difficult to secure permanent posts.

Obtaining a permanent post, for many beginning teachers, appeared more probable only after a prolonged period of temporary employment.

While many student teachers indicated an openness to applying to any type of school to secure a post, most eventually took up posts in schools that reflected their own religious affiliation.

"Four providers - Ulster, QUB, Stranmillis and St Mary's - between them will enrol around 600 teachers from next September," Prof Smith said.

"This represents a decrease of 32 per cent over the past six years.

"Over a similar period the number of newly qualified teachers securing permanent jobs has declined to 13 per cent.

"The majority of teachers begin their careers in part-time and temporary posts so requirements for induction to the profession need to take more account of this."

He said most teachers received their education in the north and went on to teach in a school similar to the one they had attended.

"However, in future we need to regard teachers as a resource for the whole community," Prof Smith said.

"We will probably need more flexibility to employ and redeploy teachers across different sectors."



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