Minister Foley launches Teaching Council’s School Placement Innovation Report

Report chronicles experience of the Teacher Higher Education Institutes during Covid

In spite of multiple challenges, HEIs completed their year’s work without significant impairment or loss

The rapid development of innovative new practices aligned to existing high quality systems ensured that processes of Initial Teacher Education delivered by the Higher Education Institutions, including School Placement, continued as effectively as possible throughout the Covid pandemic, with a number of important learnings for the future, a significant new report commissioned by the Teaching Council has concluded.

Launched (this afternoon) by Education Minister Norma Foley T.D., the Teaching Council’s School Placement Innovation Report provides an analysis of how the HEIs adapted and managed the crucially important process of school placements for student teachers. It chronicles the experience of the HEIs and identifies processes that could be retained and enhanced for the future. All fourteen HEIs contributed their experiences and recommendations to the report.

Launching the Teaching Council report, Minister Foley said, “As we commence a new academic year, I would like to take this opportunity to formally acknowledge and recognise the innovative practice that has occurred over the last 18 months in school placement. I would like to also acknowledge the growth that has been achieved over the past seven years with Droichead. Both represent a reimagining in Irish education that is dynamic, responsive, and supportive and have served to further enhance the teaching profession.

I also want to acknowledge the key role played by school management bodies, principals and teachers, Treoraithe (formerly co-operating teachers), National Induction Programme for Teachers (NIPT), Professional Support Teams, teacher unions and principal professional bodies, and higher education institutions, to ensure that school placements could be facilitated and that Newly Qualified Teachers could be supported to engage with Droichead in a truly exceptional time”.

In March 2020 the Government took the decision to close all primary and post-primary schools in Ireland owing to the health emergency caused by the global pandemic. Without precedent, every  school in the country had to close its doors as society entered a prolonged period of restrictions on social and personal interaction.

The Teaching Council report outlines that, immediately, all the taken for granted procedures and normal movements in and out of schools came to an unexpected and sudden stop. For the 14 Higher Education Institutes (HEIs) engaged in initial teacher education, and intimately involved in the professional preparation of student teachers, this was a major crisis with potentially devastating consequences for thousands of student teachers and their families, in addition to entire school communities.

However, in spite of this adversity, teachers, staff and school communities managed to maintain the education service for children and young people in conjunction with their families throughout an extended period of great uncertainty. In the background, the HEIs faced multiple, major challenges to cater for their student teachers in their programmes of study and in the core aspect of school placement. It is fair to say that ingenuity and resourcefulness, with the remarkable collaboration of partnering schools and teachers, and the successful deployment of ICT, allowed the HEIs and schools to complete their year’s work without significant impairment or loss, the report states.

Tomás Ó Ruairc, Director of The Teaching Council said, “While the HEIs already had blended learning programmes and approaches in place, the crisis required an immediate and exponential expansion of these systems to cope almost exclusively online with the suddenly ‘remote’ student teacher education environment. The report clearly shows how these changes supported better relationships between student teachers and their experienced colleagues, as well as innovative professional practice in the middle of a global pandemic.”

The launch of the report coincides with the five-year growth and implementation phases of the Droichead Professional Induction Framework – the route of induction for all Newly Qualified Teachers, marking a significant system change in Irish education. There are now close to 8,500 trained PST members/mentors in the system and a total of 12,480 Newly Qualified Teachers have completed Droichead since it began.  There are currently 111,203 teachers on the Teaching Council register, including 3,460 Newly Qualified Teachers from the 2020/21 academic year.

View the School Placement Innovation Report here.