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Teacher qualifications at primary and post-primary level


Department of Education and Skills - Teacher Education Section

The Teacher Education Section of the Department of Education and Skills was established in 2004 to oversee teacher education policy and practice. The Section views teacher education as an ongoing process, from initial teacher education, to induction and continuing professional development – see below. The Section is involved in policy formulation, co-ordination, general direction and management, quality and financial control in supporting the provision of education and continuing support for teachers and school leaders throughout their careers.

The Teaching Council

The Teaching Council promotes and develops teaching as a profession at primary and post-primary levels. It provides a forum for presenting the views of the profession on all aspects of the teaching career from initial recruitment to in-career professional development. As the regulatory body for teachers in Ireland, the Teaching Council produces a code of professional conduct for teachers, which covers standards of teaching, knowledge, skill and competence. It also maintains a register of all teachers who teach in recognised schools in Ireland. For information on registration see ‘How to apply’ below.

Initial teacher education

Primary teachers

Primary school teachers must be qualified to teach the range of primary school subjects to children aged 4 to 12 years. To qualify as a primary school teacher, you must have completed one of the folowing:

  • A recognised 3-year full-time programme, leading to the Bachelor of Education (B.Ed.) degree
  • A recognised Graduate/Higher Diploma in Education (Primary) combined with a primary degree at level 8 or a level 9 qualification on the National Framework of Qualifications

A list of recognised colleges providing approved programmes is available on the website of the Teaching Council of Ireland.

Irish language requirements: Primary school teachers must satisfy the Department of Education and Skills (DES) that they can not only teach the Irish language but also teach the range of primary school subjects through Irish. In order to gain full recognition as a primary school teacher, applicants must pass the written, aural and oral parts of the Scrúdú Cáilíochta sa Ghaeilge and provide certification that they have completed an approved three-week course in the Gaeltacht.

Probation: Before being certified as fully qualified teachers, graduates of the colleges of education have to complete a probation period after they satisfy the Irish language requirement. This is generally a one-year period during which an inspector from the DES evaluates the teacher’s work. If the Inspector is satisfied by the teacher’s performance, they will be awarded the DES Diploma which certifies that they are a fully qualified national school teacher.

Restricted recognition of qualifications: this is given to teachers who are qualified to teach the range of primary school subjects to pupils aged 4 to 12 years but who are not qualified to teach in mainstream national schools because they do not have an appropriate Irish language qualification. Teachers with restricted recognition generally work with students who have special educational needs. Those who qualified outside the State – see below – or those who received their teaching qualification in Montessori teaching are eligible for restricted recognition.

Post-primary teachers

Post primary teachers are normally required to teach at least 1 subject which they have studied to degree level. They may also be required to teach other subjects which they have not studied to degree level but in which they have developed expertise. Post-primary teachers do not need to have a qualification in the Irish language unless they are employed by a Gaeltacht school or a school where Irish is the medium of instruction.

Qualification is usually achieved by gaining a primary degree from a recognised third-level institution. This degree must include at least 1 subject from the post-primary schools’ curriculum for the Leaving Certificate Programme. The primary degree is followed by a postgraduate qualification in education such as the Higher Diploma in Education (H.Dip.Ed.). Another path to qualification is gaining a degree which is awarded by a recognised third-level institution on the basis of a concurrent course of academic study and teacher training. Physical education teachers are required to have completed a 4-year degree in physical education, based on concurrent teacher education programme.

Recognition of qualifications: The Teaching Council is the statutory body that sets the standards of academic achievement and professional training required of teachers at post primary level. Most of the qualifications that have general recognition by the Council are awarded by institutions in this country, with a small number being awarded by institutions in the United Kingdom. If your qualification does not have general recognition by the Council, you must submit a detailed statement of your third-level education and qualifications so it can assess you on an individual basis.

Teachers who qualified outside Ireland

Recognition of qualifications

If you are a primary or post-primary school teacher who qualified outside Ireland and you wish to teach in a recognised school, you must apply for recognition of your qualifications prior to registration. Under the EU Directives for the Mutual Recognition of Professional Qualifications, teachers who qualified in an EU member state can get professional recognition in Ireland. Changes to these requirements were announced in May 2010 and will apply to people whose teacher training starts on or after 1 January 2011. The Teaching Council is responsible for processing applications and regulating admissions to the teaching profession in Ireland. Qualifications obtained outside the EU must be acceptable to the Council. Once your qualifications have been recognised, you may then apply for registration – see ‘How to apply’ below.

Primary teachers

Provisional recognition of qualifications: Teachers trained in another EU member state (and currently teachers trained outside the EU) whose qualifications have been assessed and accepted by the Department of Education and Skills, but who do not possess an appropriate Irish language qualification, will be granted a 5-year period of provisional recognition to teach in Irish national schools. During this period, teachers must work towards meeting the Department’s Irish language requirements. If a school employs a teacher with provisional recognition, it must ensure that arrangements are made to teach Irish to that teacher’s class. In this situation, a school must show what arrangements are in place to the Department's inspectors when they visit the school.

Post-primary teachers

Provisional recognition of qualifications: EU law states that an EU citizen who is recognised as a post-primary teacher by another EU/EEA country may seek similar recognition in Ireland. However, while they are waiting for a final decision on their application for full recognition, the teacher will be granted only provisional recognition in this country. This will entitle them to the same pay and conditions of employment as apply to a recognised teacher in Ireland while the suitability of their qualifications is being assessed. The applicant can make up any shortfall in the terms of their qualification by either by taking an aptitude test or by undergoing an adaptation period.

Foreign language assistants scheme

This scheme allows for language assistants from France, Germany, Spain, Austria and Italy to be assigned to post-primary schools and colleges in Ireland. Their fluency can help students understand and speak a foreign language and give them a better understanding of the way of life and customs of other countries. In the same way Irish students of French, German, Italian and Spanish can apply to work as English language assistants in the countries listed above. Details of the English Language Assistant scheme can be found on the Department of Education and Skills website.

Continuing professional development

There are a number of supports available to teachers for continuing professional development. The DES Teacher Education Section provides support to school leaders and teachers in a number of areas such as curriculum reform, improving principals’ skills as leaders and managers, facilitating the management of schools and increasing the involvement of parents in the education of their children. It also provides support to particular projects and initiatives including those related to priority areas of education provision such as disadvantage and inclusion, education for students with special educational needs, positive behaviour management and language support for foreign national students.

Education centres

The nationwide network of education centres organise the local delivery of national programmes of teacher professional development on behalf of the Department of Education and Skills. The centres also organise a varied local programme of activities for teachers, school management and parents in response to demand.

Professional Development Service for Teachers

Professional Development Service for Teachers (PDST) provides professional development and support to help teachers and schools to provide the best possible education for all pupils and students. Continuing Professional Development opportunities are provided for teachers on a nationwide basis and in collaboration with the Education Centre network.

Training for special educational needs

The Special Education Support Service co-ordinates, develops and delivers a range of professional development initiatives and support structures for school personnel working with students with special educational needs in a variety of educational settings. These include mainstream primary and post-primary schools, special schools and special classes attached to mainstream schools.

Teacher Fee Refund Scheme

The Teacher Fee Refund Scheme is administered by Marino Institute of Education on behalf of the Department of Education and Skills. It provides funding towards the cost of course and examination fees incurred by primary and post primary teachers who are doing in-career development courses approved by the Department and school authorities. Approved refunds are payable on successful completion of the approved course.

Registration of teachers

Since 28 January 2014, teachers employed in State-funded teaching positions in recognised schools must be registered in order to be paid from public funds.

If you are a final-year student teacher in an Irish college or university, a member of staff from the Teaching Council will visit your college or university to provide information about the role of the Council and on teacher registration. At this information session, you will be required to fill in a form which authorises your college or university to transfer your contact and exam result details to the Teaching Council.

You will also be required to complete a Garda vetting form during this visit. The result of the Garda vetting will be issued to you as soon as the result is returned to the Teaching Council. You will then be sent a personalised application form. If the form is completed correctly and if your qualifications are in order, the Council will then confirm your registration. Currently, there is no charge applied when a new graduate is added to the Register of Teachers. New graduates will be granted conditional registration until they have successfully completed a process of induction (for post-primary teachers) or probation (for primary teachers).

There are a number of categories under which teachers may apply to the Teaching Council for registration. Qualified teachers working in recognised schools can download application forms for registration, details of registration for teachers and the code of professional conduct from the Teaching Council website.

Where to apply

The Teaching Council

Block A
Maynooth Business Campus

Tel:(01) 651 7900
Locall:1890 224 224
Fax:(01) 651 7901

Page updated: 16 February 2015



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