Oireachtas Joint and Select Committees
Tuesday, 28 September 2021
Joint Oireachtas Committee on Education and Skills
Leaving Certificate Reform: Discussion with School Management Bodies
I am happy for that debate to continue because it covers what I was going to start with. I apologise for missing the first half of the debate. I was in the Chamber, but I have been listening. To reiterate what Mr. Curtis said, we have an over-fascination with leaving certificate points and league tables. We all acknowledge that the system we have at the moment is not perfect. At the same time, when I was in the Dáil Chamber earlier, a Member of the Opposition was speaking to the Taoiseach about education and suggested that we just throw out the leaving certificate. For all the failings that we acknowledge within the current system, we need to be cognisant of the fact we do not want to throw the baby out with the bathwater. We need to take the best of what we have and incorporate it into a newer model.
Before I was elected to the Dáil, like Deputy Ó Cathasaigh, I had the luxury of teaching the new junior certificate model for a couple of years. I see where the trend is going, and I saw the advantages of that. Coming from my own particular perspective, I have several questions. I was an Irish teacher but I did not start with a BA in Irish; I had a degree in history and geography. I subsequently went to a school where my principal essentially told me that I did not have a hope of getting a history or geography teaching post, not just in that school but in many schools, such was the oversupply. He noticed I was a fluent Irish speaker and had done first-year Irish, and he asked me would I mind going back to college and finishing my degree. Of course, I was delighted because the prospect of a job was waiting at the end of it. Two hard years going up and down the road to Galway was ahead of me but I was happy to do it.
That was 15 years ago. My concern is that I am not sure of the current position. I often read about the shortage in the supply of Irish teachers, home economics teachers and teachers in the sciences and many others subjects. What have we done in the last 15 years to address that? The prospect facing me at that time, as a teacher returning to education, was fairly hefty fees and the fact it was very time-consuming at the weekends. Granted, I did not have a family and children at that time, and it was something I was happy to do. Initially, I would like to ask what we have done, particularly in subjects like Irish, to address the shortfall in the number of teachers in the last few years.