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Friday 3 February 2023 Dublin: 11°C
John Birdsall/John Birdsall/Press Association Images
# Schools
"Unqualified" maths teachers to receive training
A new survey has shown that out of 2,045 maths teachers in Irish secondary schools, 49 were not qualified to teach the subject and 596 have just some studies done in the subject.

A RECENT SURVEY of maths teachers showed that 49 out of 2,045 have no third level qualifications in maths, while 596 of them have only undergone some studies in the subject.

Now the Minister of State for Research and Innovation, Sean Sherlock TD, has announced a new training programme which he says forms part of the Government’s overall strategy to improve the teaching and learning of maths in schools.

The survey by the Teaching Council showed that out of a total of 2,045 teachers teaching maths in 258 schools, 1,400 teachers are fully qualified to do so.

The programme will help unqualified maths teachers upskill their knowledge of mathematics and study the strategies best suited to the new Project Maths syllabuses, which was introduced in September.

Tenders will be invited shortly for this programme.

The programme will combine on-line learning with lectures provided on a regional basis.

Minister Sherlock said:

I want to get to a situation where all teachers of maths have a maths qualification and the training programme I am announcing today will help to achieve that.
The survey helps us to get a clearer picture of what is actually happening on the ground in these schools and the data allows us to plan to meet the training needs of teachers over the coming years.

The Minister also noted that an earlier study shows that few, if any unqualified teachers were teaching higher level maths to final year Leaving Certificate students.

The Association of Secondary Teachers in Ireland told TheJournal.ie that teachers of maths “are qualified second-level teachers and are registered with the Teaching Council”, and that the term ‘unqualified’ does not apply to these teachers.

A more accurate term is ‘out of field’ teachers. This means that the teacher has studied maths as part of their degree programme, but maths was not the main part of their degree.  A common example is a physics teacher who has maths as part of their Degree programme, but does not have a maths degree.
School’s staffing schedules are based on pupil numbers, rather than curriculum needs. For example, a school needs an additional maths teacher (since all students take maths), but because Department of Education and Skills restrictions prohibit the school from employing an additional maths teacher, the schools asks its physics teacher (who has studied maths as part of her/ her degree) to teach maths. This teacher is qualified, but is technically “out of field”.

It said it supports the programme and that it is in favour of the reformed syllabus, but that there are issues including the need for smaller classes and more continuing professional development for maths teachers.

This was echoed by TUI President Bernie Ruane, who said:

We welcome any high quality, centrally controlled in-service in the area of maths but this must be coupled with a commitment to at least maintaining the current pupil teacher ratio (PTR) at existing levels.

He noted that in junior cycle classes, “teachers are already struggling to attend to the needs of students of varying abilities” and that “class groups are often too large and teachers cannot always attend to individual students with special educational needs”.

The training programme will address the recommendation of the Report of the Project Maths Implementation Support Group that all post primary students at all levels are taught mathematics solely by teachers who hold a qualification in mathematics by 2018.

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