Irish teachers recruited to fill Scottish shortfall
Publication Date: 2017-02-17
Glasgow University scheme looks to Ireland to solve education crisis
Glasgow University is spearheading a scheme to recruit teachers from Ireland to try and fill vacancies in Catholic schools.
Archbishop Philip Tartaglia of Glasgow has spoken of ‘acute’ teachers shortages in Catholic schools in Scotland and Glasgow University has responded with a new programme that will be introduced this Summer. 15 teachers will be brought over from Ireland, funded by the Scottish Government, for a Summer school to get them up to speed on the Scottish curriculum, before they spend two years teaching in a Catholic school. The teachers will spend four days in the classroom and a fifth day studying for a Masters Degree. If successful, the university will look to expand the programme.
Moyra Boland, deputy head of the University of Glasgow school of education, told the SCO that as well as recruiting for Catholic schools in Ireland, they hoped to fill shortages in rural areas and in STEM (Science, Technology, Education, Maths) subjects.
“Unlike Scotland where the Scottish Government puts limits on how many students schools of education can accept, they don’t control the numbers in Ireland,” she said. “So they have a teacher surplus. We are hoping to have the first ones over this Summer and build from there.”
Mrs Boland said the university would be working with local authorities in Scotland as well as Irish educational networks, and added it was the first time the university had tried to bring teachers in from another country, which was ‘very exciting.’
She also said that this was just one of a range of measures the university and Scottish Government were taking to solve the shortage of teachers for Catholic schools.
“Just this year we’ve started offering Catholic teaching certificates from Edinburgh and Strathclyde universities as well as Glasgow,” she said. “That’s been a big success with 109 students taking the certificate in those two locations.”
Professor Eammon Conway is head of theology and religious studies at Mary Immaculate College, University of Limerick, which produces more than 1,000 graduates a year, the vast majority of whom go on to be teachers. He believes young Irish Catholic teachers could be tempted to come to Scotland.
“It can be hard for new teachers to get a job here,” the priest said. “And of course there’s a long history of Irish going across the sea to Scotland and we’re proud to have played a part in your evangelisation as you have in ours.”
He said he believed many of the issues faced by Catholic teachers in Ireland were also present in Scotland.
“Digital distraction is a huge problem: we are seeing children losing capacity to read and reflect at a deep level, because the phones and tablets are worsening their attention span,” he said. “In this consumerist, individualist culture revealing the perspective of God is a real challenge.”
Still he said he’d encourage any young Irish teacher tempted to come and work in a Scottish Catholic school.
“I would say go for it,” he said. “It could be a wonderful opportunity to experience another culture. I would say work hard on forming good and meaningful relationships with your colleagues—these friendships are really important when you are abroad—and go willing to learn, and also hopefully take something positive from the experience and perhaps one day bring it back to Ireland.”
Barbara Coupar, director of the Scottish Catholic Education Service, said they ‘welcome the Scottish Government’s initiative to look at creative ways to encourage existing teachers to return to the profession, future teachers to consider a vocation to teach and those from neighbouring countries to join our school communities.’
“The detail of each of the proposals need to be carefully considered to ensure that we attract and, more importantly, retain teachers of the high standards that we have come to expect in our Scottish schools,” she said. “These proposals will add additional pathways to the traditional routes through Glasgow University and the initiatives from the Bishops Conference, such as the Setting Out on the Road course and the outreach programme with Strathclyde and Edinburgh universities to meet the needs of Catholic schools.
“The Scottish Catholic Education Service is looking at ways to practically and pastorally support those who are looking for ways to teach within Catholic schools and the board of Catholic education at the University of Glasgow looks forward to developing this exciting new opportunity with colleagues from Ireland and beyond.”
Scottish teachers in their own words on how to tackle the teaching shortage. Page 12-13
—This story ran in full in the February 17 edition print of the SCO, available in parishes.