Catholic crisis call

August 2, 1996

The viability of teacher training institutions in Northern Ireland is under threat because of falling entry requirements on the mainland, according to a Catholic college principal.

Martin O'Callaghan, principal of St Mary's College, claims admissions to his own college and Stranmillis dropped when Government policy changed to allow teacher training colleges in Britain to offer courses to Northern Ireland students. He said about 200 Northern Ireland teachers, trained in colleges and universities on the mainland, have got jobs in Ulster.

Father O'Callaghan said the change in policy was doing "great harm to the institutions which educate teachers in Northern Ireland".

While applicants of St Mary's were not guaranteed places with two Bs and a C in their A levels, some colleges in England and Wales accepted students with only two Es, he said.

Father O'Callaghan also claimed the Catholic community was being harder hit by the trend because they cannot afford to send their children outside the province.

"Faced with a glut of teachers the Department of Education has reduced the numbers we can accept, further driving up entry standards which are already higher than many university courses."

He added that teachers on English courses were not being trained in the Northern Ireland common curriculum, which differs significantly from the mainland. This further added to problems for schools and children.

The department said it was aware of the concerns and they were being investigated.

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