Written answers

Thursday, 31 March 2022

Department of Education and Skills

Teacher Training

Photo of Éamon Ó CuívÉamon Ó Cuív (Galway West, Fianna Fail)
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279. To ask the Minister for Education and Skills if it is intended to allow final-year primary school student teachers to substitute in primary schools in which teachers are absent due to Covid-19 or illness in view of the extensive spread of variants of Covid-19 at present; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [17240/22]

Photo of Norma FoleyNorma Foley (Kerry, Fianna Fail)
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At the outset, I want to acknowledge the key role played by student teachers in supporting our schools throughout the Covid-19 pandemic, particularly in providing substitution cover. This support was vitally important to ensure that our schools remained open for pupils.

In this regard, the Deputy will be aware that a framework for adapted School Placement arrangements was developed by the Department of Education and the Teaching Council, together with the relevant Initial Teacher Education (ITE) providers, in order to ensure that student teachers at primary level could continue to support schools during periods of planned school placement from the beginning of January up to the February mid-term break. During this period, student teachers continued to be located in their host school for school placement, but were also available to support other schools where required.

The Education Stakeholders, including the Department of Education, HEIs providing initial teacher education (ITE) and the Teaching Council, have continued to work together to maintain the integrity of the students’ ITE experiences and support students in satisfactorily completing their ITE programmes.

The adapted School Placement arrangements were an exceptional measure introduced as part of a suite of measures to support schools to minimise the risk associated with COVID-19 and in light of the prevalence of the Omicron variant, with the understanding that these would be unwound as soon as possible. The Department understands that student teachers will now return to experiencing the more typical School Placement arrangements, and associated assessments, which are a critical part of their ITE programmes.

While the adapted School Placement arrangements are no longer in place, student teachers will, if they wish, still be able to support schools by providing substitution cover when they have availability outside of their ITE programme requirements.

Due to the exigencies of the public health pandemic still posed by the spread of Covid-19, I have signed into force legislation which permits payment for periods of more than five consecutive school days to 3rd and 4th year student teachers, who satisfy the criteria to be eligible to apply to the Teaching Council for registration, pursuant to Route 5 of the Schedule to the Teaching Council (Registration) Regulations 2016.

This is a temporary and time limited amendment to Regulation 7 of the Education Act 1998 (Unregistered Persons) Regulations 2014 (S.I. No. 32 of 2014) which will expire on 30th June 2022. This amendment solely relates to this category of unregistered persons and the “5-day rule” remains in place in relation to the employment of all other unregistered persons in schools.

In addition, the Teaching Council is working to put processes and procedures in place to support the registration and vetting of 3rd and 4th year student teachers. This is expected to be in place before the end of this academic year.


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