Dáil Éireann - Volume 597 - 15 February, 2005

Written Answers - Teaching Qualifications.

  466. Mr. J. Higgins asked the Minister for Education and Science if she has received correspondence from the Union of Students in Ireland calling for the suspension of a course (details supplied) in order that a comprehensive debate regarding teacher training, involving student teachers, teachers unions and the general public can take place; and her views on same. [4644/05]

  Ms Hanafin: I am pleased to inform the Deputy that I met the Union of Students in Ireland, USI, shortly after I received the correspondence in question, to discuss, among other things, the matters referred to by the Deputy. Although the matters were fully discussed at our meeting when I made the USI aware of my position, a formal response to the correspondence will issue to the USI shortly. I will arrange to have a copy forwarded to the Deputy in due course.

The course referred to by the Deputy is a privately-run course provided by a privately owned institution, which is accredited by Higher Education and Training Awards Council, HETAC.

The graduate diploma in education, which is conferred at the end of this course is recognised by my Department for the purposes of primary teaching. Given the status of this course and the college, it is not within the remit of my Department to suspend the course in question. In order for the course to secure HETAC accreditation, the college in question complied with HETAC’s quality assurance and validation requirements. The quality assurance requirements of HETAC, which are published on its website, require, that over time, each provider engages in an institutional self-evaluation process in line with international standards at higher education level, and an external review.

I would like to assure the Deputy that my Department’s Inspectorate monitors 10% of the final teaching practice students from the college in question, as is the case for the students of the five colleges of education at undergraduate and post-graduate levels. This process aims to assess the quality of the teaching practice dimension of pre-service education in individual colleges and throughout the system. It also strives to provide information on teaching practice to the Department and the individual colleges.

In the case of the college, which is the subject of the Deputy’s question, this evaluation process [1496] has just been completed by the Inspectorate for the first cohort of the college’s students who are due to graduate in June 2005. Analysis and assessment of this work is currently underway and the outcome of this work will be provided to the college covered by the Deputy’s question as well as the five colleges of education in a series of meetings with the Department’s inspectorate. The provision of feedback to the colleges is a normal practice and it is a valuable means of improving the quality of teaching provided to students.

I am satisfied that the monitoring undertaken by my Department’s Inspectorate, combined with HETAC’s internal review procedures, adequately address any issues raised by the USI in relation to this course. I do not, therefore, consider it either appropriate or relevant to suspend the course in question.