Minister for Education Norma Foley TD has today announced the publication of the Initial Teacher Education Policy Statement: Reflecting on a decade of change and creating a vision for the future. The policy statement reflects on a significant period of change for the provision of initial teacher education (ITE) in Ireland and sets out a vision for initial teacher education to 2030.
The policy statement draws from a comprehensive consultation process with a range of stakeholders, including policy makers, higher education institutions providing ITE, management bodies, unions, students, teachers and various advocacy groups in the areas of inclusion and special educational needs, along with a review of recent relevant research, to develop its vision:
All student teachers in Ireland will experience high quality initial teacher education, within university-led centres of excellence, to equip them with the foundational competencies and learning experiences that will help them to embrace the constantly evolving challenges of supporting all learners in the 21st century, underpinned by reflective practice, professional collaboration, research, creativity and wellbeing.
Minister Foley said: “The quality of teaching in the classroom is absolutely crucial to the experience that a child and young person has in school. We all remember inspirational teachers, whose influence and enthusiasm shaped our own learning, helped us to achieve, and in many cases had a strong influence on our career and life choices.
“We are deeply fortunate in Ireland to have such a highly skilled, engaged, and committed teaching workforce. It is of immense benefit to our children and young people and to our society as a whole. We must continue investing in the quality of our profession, and initial teacher education is a vital step in this.
“This policy statement presents my Department’s ambitious vision for initial teacher education. It sets out our commitment to ensuring that student teachers at primary and post-primary level will have the skills to support all of our children and young people as learners in the years ahead. It recognises the progress that has been made through the Teaching Council’s accreditation of programmes and the structural reform that has been embedded in the system over the past decade, as well as the actions taken to meet the challenges of teacher supply and COVID-19.
“I would like to acknowledge the commitment to quality evidenced across the sector: from those in higher education institutions providing ITE; teachers, schools and other stakeholders supporting school placement; and, crucially, the bright and motivated student teachers who take on the mantle of teaching the next generation.
“My overarching objective in developing this statement is to improve the overall quality of initial teacher education in Ireland through practical measures which will improve available evidence and enhance the already strong collaboration within the sector. This will ensure that our newly qualified teachers have the necessary tools to support them in their aim to inspire, enlighten and prepare pupils and students to succeed in life.”
Minister for Further and Higher Education, Research Innovation and Science Simon Harris TD said: “Providing high quality initial teacher education is one of the many ways that our higher education institutions contribute to achieving our ambitions as a nation. The whole-of-Government approach envisaged by this policy statement will provide scope for enhanced cooperation at the practical level.”
Minister for Children, Disability, Equality, Integration and Youth Roderic O’Gorman TD: said: “The Department of Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth has led a series of very significant structural and policy changes in the early learning and care sector in Ireland, and has laid out plans in First 5 and Nurturing Skills for further reforms over the years ahead. Aligning with this work, the policy statement rightly acknowledges the importance of positive transitions from early learning and care to school, and commits to strengthening linkages between initial teacher education and the training of early years educators.”
Director of the Teaching Council, Lynn Ramsey, said: “The policy statement recognises the significant work which is underway, as the full second cycle of accreditation under the Teaching Council’s Céim: Standards for Initial Teacher Education continues. The Teaching Council will continue to work closely with the Department of Education to progress the actions in the implementation plan.”
The policy statement recognises that ITE is the first step on the continuum of teacher education and acknowledges the commitment to excellence from all involved in preparing teachers of the future, while recognising the benefit that greater clarity will provide to all in the system. High level goals for the next seven years are set out, along with a phased implementation plan detailing actions to achieve them.
A copy of the policy statement is available here: https://www.gov.ie/en/publication/926b4-ite-policy-statement/
Notes for Editors
There have been significant developments over the last decade in the provision of initial teacher education (ITE) in Ireland.
- There were significant changes to the content and duration of ITE programmes following on from Literacy and Numeracy for Learning and Life: The National Strategy to Improve Literacy and Numeracy among Children and Young People 2011-2020 and the Teaching Council’s Initial Teacher Education: Criteria and Guidelines for Programme Providers, both published in 2011. The Teaching Council’s Criteria were further reviewed and updated Standards were published in 2020.
- The structure of ITE provision changed markedly following the 2012 publication of the Report of International Review Panel on the Structure of Initial Teacher Education in Ireland, known as the Sahlberg I Report. There has been considerable progress in creating teacher education centres of excellence, as confirmed by the Sahlberg II Report which was published in 2019.
- There has also been significant curricular reform which impacts on ITE. This reform included the introduction of the Primary Language Curriculum, the Framework for Junior Cycle and new senior cycle subjects, with the Primary Curriculum Framework recently launched and Senior Cycle Reform underway.
The aim of the Initial Teacher Education Policy Statementis to document the current policy and provision for ITE at primary and post-primary level in order to increase clarity to the system. The policy statement also presents a vision for ITE provision to 2030. High level goals for the next seven years are set out, along with a phased implementation plan detailing actions to achieve them.
Underpinning the vision is a range of guiding principles which include a desire to attract high quality, diverse candidates to the teaching profession, recognition that ITE is the first step on a continuum of learning for teachers which continues throughout their career, that all ITE programmes will meet the standards of Céim, and all stakeholders will inform and support continuous improvement in standards.
ITE provision will continue to be led by a small number of university-led centres of excellence, as envisaged by the Sahlberg II Report. The Department also expects that ITE provision will have due regard to the needs of the school system. The Department acknowledges that a coherent whole-of-Government approach will be needed to implement the vision and goals of this policy statement.
Six high level goals have been set out to guide progress over the coming years to 2030:
- ITE is attractive for high-quality candidates and accessible to students from a diversity of backgrounds
- ITE Programmes will prepare student teachers to embrace the constantly evolving challenges of supporting all learners in the 21st century
- ITE is strongly connected with and relevant to the needs of the education system
- ITE structures are well placed to enable high-quality ITE provision
- Systems and policies are in place to enable collaboration across the different sectors of education and to improve communication
- A strong research base is established to support ITE programme and policy development and design into the future.
A three-phase implementation plan is envisaged, with actions for the first phase from 2023-2024 set out in the policy statement. Indicators have also been developed to ensure progress can be tracked. A report will be published at the end of phase one to outline progress made. Results from phase one will inform the formulation of actions for phase 2 and phase 3.
To oversee the implementation of the policy statement, an Advisory Group on Initial Teacher Education will be established, with representatives of all relevant sectors, including student teachers.
In addition, higher education institutions are being asked to commit to a process of annual dialogue around the actions of this policy statement, with the Department of Education, Teaching Council, the Department of Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science and the Department of Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth as applicable.