Minister Bruton announces allocation of €2.4m funding to promote diversity in the teaching profession

Maura O'Shea

By Maura O'Shea

Posted: 17 April, 2017

The Minister for Education and Skills, Richard Bruton TD, today (Monday) announced the allocation of €2.4million for new initiatives to widen access to Initial Teacher Education. This programme will result in more than 120 new teachers coming through the system from disadvantaged groups which traditionally have been under-represented in teaching.

The groups targeted includes people, in particular, from socio-economically disadvantaged backgrounds, students with a disability, and members of the Traveller community.

The Minister’s objective is to increase the number of students from underrepresented groups entering initial teacher education. In doing so, the Minister is aiming to:

  • provide more role models for students from these groups, demonstrating that there are pathways open to them to realise their potential through education
  • help provide better outcomes for students from disadvantaged groups. By ensuring that there are more teachers in place with personal understanding of the challenges that these groups face, which they can then bring to bear on teaching methods, we can undoubtedly see improvements in these outcomes

Today’s announcement is part of a suite of measures being taken by Minister Bruton to tackle education disadvantage, including the expansion of DEIS for the first time since 2009, and the development of new funding mechanisms, including the School Excellence Fund.

The funding being announced today will support a range of new initiatives and partnerships and it is expected that these activities will support more than 120 new students, from groups that are currently under-represented, to participate in initial teacher education programmes.

The type of new and innovative projects that will be developed by the Initial Teacher Education providers include:

Targeting students in DEIS schools, from Junior Cycle onwards, to raise expectations and to promote teaching as a profession. This will be complemented by the provision of academic supports for target students in key areas such as Gaeilge and Mathematics. Target students will also be enabled to engage in ‘taster’ initial teacher education modules.

Supporting the teaching teams in DEIS schools to assist them to critically assess the structural barriers to their students accessing initial teacher education, and supporting them to formulate individualised school action plans to address those obstacles. Teachers will also be supported to strengthen their leadership skills, and develop culturally responsive teaching and cross-cultural communication skills to enable them to act as mentors to aspiring teachers.

Working directly with communities with low participation rates in higher education to promote awareness of pathways into teaching as a profession and to provide information and relevant supports for those interested in exploring opportunities, including ‘taster’ initial teacher education programmes.

Creating a specific pathway from Further Education (FE) into post primary initial teacher education. This will involve the promotion of teaching as a viable career option for FE students, the provision of ‘taster’ programmes, specific academic supports, subsidised places on initial teacher education programmes, and ring fenced places for FE graduates.

Providing direct financial supports to target students in the form of scholarships or bursaries.

The PATH funding is also complemented by the recent reinstatement of the postgraduate maintenance grant for the most disadvantaged students, as provided for in Budget 2017. This measure, which will provide maintenance grant funding of up to €6,000, is expected to benefit some 1,100 postgraduate students.

Today’s announcement fulfils a key action in the Action Plan for Education, which aims to make the Irish education and training service the best in Europe within a decade.

Minister Bruton said:

“At the heart of everything we are doing in education is ensuring that every child has the opportunity to fulfil their potential, regardless of their circumstances. Education has a unique capacity to break down the cycles of disadvantage. The basic aim of this Government is to sustain our economic progress and use it to build a fair and compassionate society. No area is more important to this vision than education.

“We are lucky in Ireland to have such a dedicated and committed teaching profession. Our teachers and school leaders will continue to play a pivotal role in helping children to achieve their potential.

“Today’s announcement will develop pathways for people from underrepresented groups, in particular students from socio-economically disadvantaged background, students with a disability, and members of the Traveller community, to become teachers.

“Progress to Higher Education by people from disadvantaged backgrounds is a major goal of the Action Plan for Education. But in the case of teaching, these 120 new teachers will be role models and help others to follow. As teachers they will have the potential to inspire a new generation of students to aspire towards higher education. Initiatives such as these have the potential to really help to break the cycle of disadvantage for many communities. That is my priority as Minister for Education.

“In Budget 2017 I was delighted to be able to reintroduce Postgraduate grants for the most disadvantaged students from September 2017 onwards.Postgraduate grants will make it easier for underrepresented groups and groups from disadvantaged areas to train as teachers.

Notes for Editors

This funding is being made available to the Centres of Teaching Excellence through the Programme for Access to Higher Education (PATH).


The DES, through the HEA, invited the six centres of teaching excellence, in partnership with relevant local stakeholders, to compete for PATH Strand 1 funding by submitting proposals in accordance with a set of prescribed criteria.

The six centres of teaching excellence are as follows:

  • University of Limerick/ Mary Immaculate College/ Limerick Institute of Technology (NISE)
  • National University of Ireland, Galway/ St. Angela’s College
  • University College Cork
  • Maynooth University
  • Dublin City University/ St. Patrick’s College Drumcondra/ Mater Dei / Church of Ireland College of Education
  • University College Dublin/Trinity College Dublin/National College of Art and Design/ Marino Institute of Education

The HEA established an independent assessment panel to evaluate proposals and make funding recommendations.  The two panel members were Professor Liz Thomas (Edge Hill University, UK) and Professor Kari Smith (Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU). Both academics are considered international experts in the area of promoting access to higher education.

Funding is being allocated to the following Centres of Teaching Excellence in line with the recommendation from the independent assessment panel:

Centre Total allocation

  • Maynooth University 750,000
  • NUIG & St Angela’s 204,060
  • DCU 450,000
  • NISE 750,000
  • UCC 250,000

Total 2,404,060

The funding of €2.4m is being allocated over a 3 year period. The funding is subject to the submission of revised project plans to reflect the feedback from the independent assessment panel. Funding is also contingent on projects being in accordance with DES policy generally and, where relevant, meeting the Teaching Council’s criteria for ITE programme providers.

The remaining Centre (comprising TCD/UCD/MIE/NCAD) will be invited to submit a proposal that will be considered for funding separate to this announcement.

National Access Plan

The National Plan for Equity of Access to Higher Education, 2015-19, identifies 6 target groups, which are the priority groups for PATH 1 funding:

  • Students with a disability
  • Travellers
  • Students from socio-economically disadvantaged backgrounds
  • Students progressing from Further Education
  • Mature students
  • Part-time students

There are also sub-groups such as lone parents and students from ethnic minorities which are also expected to benefit from the measures being funded under PATH 1.

Some of the specific measures to be supported under PATH Strand 1 will be:

Aspiring Teachers Pathway: this project by Maynooth University (MU) will attract 20 students in DEIS schools who have an interest in becoming teachers. Students will be supported through academic supports (Maths, Gaeilge), mentoring, and practical support with completing HEAR/DARE/SUSI applications. Students who successfully complete the programme will be supported to access places on ITE programmes through additional reserved DARE and HEAR places in MU.

Rising Leaders Programme: this programme by Maynooth University will be open to teachers who were themselves from one of the National Access Plan target groups and/or are teaching in a DEIS school with progression rates to third level of less than 30%. Over the two-year programme, participant teachers will strengthen their leadership skills, and develop culturally responsive teaching and cross-cultural communication skills. They will in turn act as mentors to aspiring teachers and help create a poster and video series about the need for diversity in education. They will also gain academic credits towards a postgraduate diploma in educational leadership.

Direct entry route from Further Education: St. Angela’s College will provide for the first time a direct-entry route from Further Education into the undergraduate BA/Professional Master of Education (PME – post primary). The College will work with 9 Further Education Colleges in the BMW region to attract 18 Further Education students into the concurrent 5-year BA/PME. Pre-entry supports will include information sessions, assistance with CAO ITE applications, module delivery in areas of need (e.g. Gaeilge. Maths), as well as ‘in-reach’ activities to bring the students into St. Angela’s College for lectures, workshops and mentoring. These will be combined with post-entry academic, financial (scholarships) and personal supports.

Bridging Advanced Programme Pathway: DCU will support students in the FE sector who have expressed a strong commitment to teaching as a career possibility by supporting students to complete a recognised and accredited module from a level 8 or level 9 ITE programme. This module can be subsequently considered for exemption upon successful entry to an ITE programme. Students will be supported by a ‘pathway coordinator’ who will be a guide and mentor in supporting the student.

Community Outreach Lifelong Learning Hubs: DCU aims to establish such hubs in Darndale and Kilbarrack to promote access to the new DCU Institute of Education. The centres would provide education sessions (including ITE taster courses) with a focus on mentoring and information sessions about teaching as a career, as well as academic supports in areas pertinent for accessing teaching such as Gaeilge and Maths. The centres would be open for two afternoons and evenings on the same days each week as an initial step towards establishing these sites as community lifelong learning centres.

Student Teacher Transition Programme (STTP): University of Limerick will provide an intensive one-week experience for all successful new ITE entrants from the access plan target groups. This intensive programme will prepare new students for their higher-level education experience, their specific course of study and also introduce them to their mentoring and academic support framework. Students on the programme will be asked to keep reflective portfolios that will capture their experience of earlier education, early transition and their journey through the first year of their teaching programmes. This will assist in the evaluation of what strategies are effective in easing the transition to ITE for access students from the target groups.

Appointment of a Project Officer in Equality and Inclusive Education: UCC will appoint a full-time project officer whose duties will include monitoring of all entry points and completion rates, input into furtherance of objectives of the proposal as well as teaching, presenting, mentoring, placement, liaison, research and advocacy duties.

More: Access, Initial Teacher Education, Richard Bruton

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