DEPARTMENT FOR EMPLOYMENT AND LEARNING
28 November 2011
Farry announces commitment to shared Teacher Training provision
Employment and Learning Minister, Dr Stephen Farry MLA, today launched a far-reaching study of teacher training provision in Northern Ireland.
It will examine the financial sustainability of current structures and explore the capacity of the creation of a shared and integrated system for future delivery.
The Minister also announced his support for the merger of Stranmillis College and Queen’s University Belfast (QUB) to create a world class centre for teacher education, and his commitment to taking forward the necessary enabling legislation once a sufficient level of political support can be established.
After making a statement to the Assembly, Dr Farry stated: “There are two compelling reasons for supporting the merger between Stranmillis and Queen’s. The first is the opportunity to create a world class school of education. The second is the challenge of addressing the serious revenue shortfalls and capital investment requirements of Stranmillis. The merger with QUB will address these issues.
“Without this merger, the future of Stranmillis College as a stand alone institution is bleak. My departmental budget is already under considerable pressure and I do not have any additional funding for Stranmillis.
“At present, there is not yet a sufficient level of political support within the Assembly to proceed with the enabling legislation for the merger. I remain committed to achieving this consent, and will move the legislation forward at the earliest opportunity.
“My consideration of the potential Stranmillis – QUB merger has led me to ask some much more fundamental questions regarding the provision of teacher training in Northern Ireland.
“A critical question is whether a relatively small society requires five different teacher education providers, including two dedicated teacher training colleges. Almost half of the revenue grant provided by the Department to the two colleges consists of various subsidies beyond their core teacher training. This would seem to be a clear example of a cost related to a divided society.
“There are further considerations relating to equality of access to teacher training places and equality of opportunity in a declining and more competitive job market, and the importance of teachers being taught within a shared and integrated environment.
“Therefore, I have decided to undertake a two-stage process to examine the current and the potential future teacher training landscape. The first part of this process will be an objective analysis of the financial stability and sustainability of the teacher training colleges. The second strand will scope out the options and engage the key stakeholders on the potential for a more shared and integrated system for the funding and delivery of teacher training.
“I am convinced that the best way forward for Northern Ireland society is to develop a fully integrated education system comprising an integrated system of teacher education. However, I know that I cannot deliver this by myself and the views of others, including in particular the various stakeholders, are critical.
“I will therefore remain open to all reasonable suggestions and recommendations. I would emphasise that this does not necessarily mean a single provider. My vision provides for a plurality of provision where it makes economic sense to do so. But it does mean that we should take opportunities when they arise to move towards a more sensible arrangement than the current profile.
“However, my priorities are clear. Teacher education must contribute to a world–class education system. It must be financially efficient, sustainable and affordable. And it must reflect our vision that children are educated through a system which is inclusive, open and shared. We owe nothing less to the future schoolchildren of Northern Ireland as well as the future teachers in our society.”
The document is available at http://www.delni.gov.uk/teacher-training-statement