Thursday, 12 May 2022
Department of Education and Skills
157. To ask the Minister for Education and Skills if her attention been drawn to a new report (details supplied) which details the experiences of non-religious teachers in schools with a religious ethos in both the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland; her views on the recommendations of the report; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [23481/22]
The Department is aware of the report referred to by the Deputy. The recruitment and appointment of teachers to fill teaching posts is a matter for the individual school authority. In accordance with Department Circular 31/2011, schools are required to ensure that individuals appointed to teach are registered teachers with qualifications appropriate to the sector and suitable to the post for which they are employed. In post primary schools teachers are required to be registered Route 2 with the Teaching Council and have qualifications in the subjects for the post they are appointed to in order to receive incremental salary. It should also be noted that schools and other educational institutions are required to comply with anti-discrimination and other employment legislation, such as the Employment Equality Act 1998.
Section 37 (1) of the Employment Equality Act, 1998 allowed for the exclusion of discrimination on particular grounds in certain employments. The amended Section 37 now draws a distinction between religious institutions that are entirely privately funded and those which are funded by the taxpayer. The rationale is in the case of the second category, the Government has the right to protect employees who are paid from public monies from unfair treatment or discrimination in their work place.
The amended Section 37 now requires relevant employers in schools with a religious ethos to show that any favourable treatment of an employee or prospective employee is limited to the religion ground and action taken against a person is objectively justified by reference to that institution’s aim of protecting its religious ethos. This provision raises the threshold for discrimination so that schools are precluded from discrimination on any other equality grounds and that any action taken is reasonable and proportionate.
158. To ask the Minister for Education and Skills the measures that are being taken to ensure that adequate teaching staff will be available to accommodate the new leaving certificate programme subjects; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [23721/22]
As the Deputy is aware, on 29 March I announced an ambitious programme of work for a reimagined Senior Cycle of education where the student is at the centre of their Senior Cycle experience.
In my announcement I set out a clear vision for Senior Cycle, building upon the National Council for Curriculum and Assessment’s (NCCA’s) Advisory Report. The NCCA’s review of senior cycle involved an extensive range of research, consultations and communications with a wide range of stakeholders.
The three tenets of Senior Cycle reform are to:
- Empower students to meet the challenges of the 21st century
- Enrich the student experience and build on what’s strong in our current system
- Embed well-being and reduce student stress levels
As part of these reforms, two new subjects; Drama, Film and Theatre Studies and Climate Action and Sustainable Development, will be introduced for Leaving Certificate students, starting in September 2024 in network schools. I have requested the NCCA to develop these new subject areas as a matter of priority.
Introducing significant change at Senior Cycle needs to be thought through carefully and it is essential to ensure that NCCA, State Examinations Commission (SEC), the Department and schools can work through the changes with all stakeholders over a sustained period of time.
I have requested the NCCA to invite a selection of schools, representative of the different types and sizes of schools across Ireland, to become “network schools”. In order to successfully deliver on the vision I have set out, we need to partner with schools to trial, evaluate, learn, adjust and succeed.
Network schools will be given the opportunity to participate at an early stage in the new subjects. These schools will receive support through a variety of forms to enable their participation. The network school approach will allow the curriculum and assessment arrangements to be co-constructed with students and their teachers allowing specific aspects of these proposals to be progressed and evaluated.
My Department will be engaging with the Teaching Council during this period in relation to the registration and eligibility requirements for teachers of the new subjects as well as with the initial teacher education (ITE) providers and teacher professional support services (as regards continuous professional development for teachers) as appropriate in regard to the training of relevant teachers for the subjects. There has also been some preliminary engagement with those providers in regard to Senior Cycle redevelopment. The focus over time will be on ensuring an alignment between ITE provision and the redeveloped Senior Cycle across a range of areas.