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Written Answers - Teaching Qualifications

Tuesday, 15 May 2012

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 765 No. 3

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 240.  Deputy Tony McLoughlin Information on Tony McLoughlin Zoom on Tony McLoughlin  asked the Minister for Education and Skills Information on Ruairí Quinn Zoom on Ruairí Quinn  in relation to the teaching of mathematics, his views that school management should deploy teachers who do not meet the qualification criteria for teaching mathematics as set down by the Teaching Council into the teaching of mathematics when there are more suitable qualified teachers in the school who might be deployed instead, and in cases where those teachers are already deployed in departments which are currently overstaffed. [24122/12]

 241.  Deputy Tony McLoughlin Information on Tony McLoughlin Zoom on Tony McLoughlin  asked the Minister for Education and Skills Information on Ruairí Quinn Zoom on Ruairí Quinn  in schools in which pupils are set by ability in mathematics, across both junior and leaving certificate programmes, resulting in a division between honours and ordinary level classes and also further divisions of the ordinary level classes into progressively less able groups, his views on whether it is appropriate to deploy particular teachers in a school to teach exclusively lower or lowest ordinary level/foundation levels sets, or should teachers be deployed across a range of ability sets; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [24123/12]

Minister for Education and Skills (Deputy Ruairí Quinn): Information on Ruairí Quinn Zoom on Ruairí Quinn I propose to take Questions Nos. 240 and 241 together.

In the first instance, I would point out that the deployment of teaching staff in the school is a matter for the school management authorities. I acknowledge, however, that the proportion of Mathematics teachers without a major qualification represents a challenge to the system. This is, however, also a feature of education systems in other jurisdictions. The results of a survey of mathematics teaching undertaken by the Teaching Council, in 2011, shows that 66.4% of maths teachers are fully qualified to do so, 31.1% have undergone some studies in maths and only 2.5% of teachers teaching maths have no third level qualification/studies in maths.

Last September proposals were announced to introduce a course for teachers of Mathematics who may not have a formal qualification in the subject to upskill to the recognised levels. The tendering competition is now over and the assessment process is at an advanced stage. Arising out of this competitive process, I hope that the first courses will commence during the forthcoming school year. The course/s will aim to provide teachers with suitable mathematical content knowledge along with appropriate pedagogical strategies in line with the new Project Maths initiative. The provision of the training programme addresses the following recommendation of the Report of the Project Maths Implementation Support Group: “The Department of Education and Skills should work towards ensuring that all post primary students at all levels are taught mathematics solely by teachers who hold a qualification in mathematics by 2018. [386]Post graduate courses for existing teachers should be provided on a scale and level commensurate with this objective.”

It will provide unqualified maths teachers with the opportunity to up skill their knowledge of mathematics and study the strategies best suited to the new Project Maths syllabuses. Providing for high quality teaching and learning of mathematics is of key strategic importance to the State. In addition, schools have been asked to make every effort to deploy teachers who hold a qualification in mathematics to teach mathematics, which is particularly important in the formative years of junior cycle.

I believe that class grouping should be designed to enhance the students’ appreciation and understanding of mathematics and should serve to provide all students with an appropriate level of challenge but in a manner that is a positive learning experience for the student. A growing number of schools now place students in mixed-ability classes until the composition of the higher and ordinary-level cohorts is decided. The groupings within these levels should, where appropriate, contain a mix of abilities. It is essential that any decisions taken in this regard are educationally sound and focus on the students’ educational experience and on enhanced outcomes. Ultimately it rests with the individual school to develop, in partnership with its stakeholders, an educationally sound rationale, for the manner in which class groups are composed, which recognises the need for all of its students to achieve to the highest level possible.

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