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EACEA National Policies Platform:Eurydice
Initial education for teachers working in early childhood and school education


9.Teachers and education staff

9.1Initial education for teachers working in early childhood and school education

Last update: 27 November 2023

Initial Education for Teachers Working in Early Childhood and School Education

Early Childhood Education and Care


Under the Child Care Act 1991 (Early Years Services) Regulations 2016, all staff working directly with children in an ELC service must hold at least a Level 5 major award in Early Childhood Care and Education on the National Framework of Qualifications (NFQ), or a qualification deemed equivalent. There is currently no qualification requirement for those working in School-Aged Childcare (SAC).

Although the minimum requirement is a Level 5 award, many early years educators have obtained Level 7 and 8 awards. The Qualifications Advisory Board (QAB), a joint process established by the Department of Education and DCEDIY, reviews Level 7 and 8 programmes for adherence to Professional Award Criteria and Guidelines and recommends whether they should be recognised by DCEDIY for funding purposes.

The QQI, through annotated Professional Award-Type Descriptors, and the QAB, through the Professional Award Criteria and Guidelines, have developed frameworks to ensure and maintain the quality of the education and training programmes from levels 5 to 8 on the NFQ.

School Education

Five state-funded Colleges of Education have responsibilities for primary teacher education in Ireland:

As stated in the introduction, the duration of courses for the Bachelor of Education (B.Ed.,) course has been four years since September 2012. There is one private provider of courses for teacher education in Ireland, Hibernia Collegethat provides much online and some face-to-face tuition.

A further consecutive model is also available in four of the State funded Colleges and in the private college. This requires that students holding an honours primary degree complete a two years post-graduate course in primary teaching. 

There are fifteen providers of post-primary initial teacher education. The majority of post-primary teachers follow the consecutive model in that student teachers initially complete a primary degree of 3-4 years duration in a recognised third-level institution that may be State or privately funded. They then complete a university postgraduate course of two years leading to the Professional Diploma in Education (PDE). The concurrent model consists of four or five-year combined programmes of academic and professional studies leading to the award of a degree from a recognised third-level institution.

Institutions, Level and Models of Training

Early Childhood Education and Care

There has been considerable progress in the expansion, validation and further development of relevant education and training programmes in ELC from levels 5 through to 8 on the NFQ, particularly through development of new courses by further and higher education providers, and the publication in 2019 of Professional Award-Type Descriptors and Professional Award Criteria and Guidelines.

In general, Level 5 and 6 awards are provided by Education and Training Board colleges around the country.  There are also private providers.  There are a wide range of further and higher educational institutions and universities providing Level 7 and 8 awards with private providers also operating at this level.

As a result of the combination of the commitment to professional development of those working in the sector and the supports and incentives provided, the qualification levels of the workforce have progressively increased, with the proportion of early years educators with a level 7 or higher qualification more than doubling between 2012 and 2021, and the proportion with a Level 6 or higher award reaching more than two-thirds (72%).

School Education

The programmes of initial teacher education have been extended to four years at undergraduate level since 2012, and two years at post-graduate level since 2016. These new programmes include further time for school placement, reflective practice and research.


The five primary colleges of education are denominational in character and are privately owned. They are funded by grants from the Department of Education and Skills or the Higher Education Authority (HEA). Students benefit from a free fees scheme. The main focus of the colleges is the Bachelor of Education (B.Ed.,) in Primary Teaching which is the main path for entry to primary teaching. A post-graduate programme in primary teaching is also available in four of the state funded colleges (with the exception of Church of Ireland College of Education). A private provider, Hibernia College, also delivers this programme over two years.

The duration of the initial B.Ed degree course for primary teachers is four years. Prior to September 2012, this course was three years in four of the colleges, with students from Dublin City University (DCU) and the University of Limerick (UL) awarded an honours degree at the end of this time. Students in the Colleges associated with Trinity College Dublin (TCD) obtained an honours degree following completion of an optional fourth year (on a part-time basis while they were already in teaching posts). Students in Froebel Department of Primary and Early Childhood Education (formerly Froebel College) In Maynooth University who commenced since 2010 also complete a four year honours degree programme. The course structure has undergone a re-structuring and modernisation in the light of the recent extension of the duration of the courses as set out in the introduction above.


A post-primary teacher must hold a recognised degree and a recognised teaching qualification.  Teachers in this sector are subject specialists and must hold a qualification to teach their major subject or subjects to all levels, up to and including Leaving Certificate higher level, in order to be registered by the Teaching Council. Two models of teacher education exist. In many subject areas, student teachers initially complete a primary degree of three or four years duration in a recognised third-level institution that may be State or privately funded. They then complete a university postgraduate course leading to the Professional Diploma in Education (PDE), formerly known as the Post Graduate Diploma in Education (PGDE). Since September 2014, all post-graduate programmes of teacher education are of two years duration. Some are offered at Master’s level. The PDE typically combines foundation studies in education, pedagogy and teaching practice carried out under supervision for the course of the two academic years.

Teachers of practical subjects such as home economics, woodwork, metalwork, agricultural science and art follow the concurrent model. This model consists of four or five-year combined programmes of academic and professional studies leading to the award of a degree from a recognised third-level institution. Teachers of physical education are also taught through the concurrent model and typically select a second optional curricular subject.  In an increasing number of subject areas, teachers may qualify through either route. Some examples are religious education, science, music and languages. To teach in specialist areas such as learning support, special education and guidance, teachers must hold a recognised teaching qualification and in addition, a state-recognised post-graduate qualification in the specialist area. All teachers at post-primary level must complete a period of post-qualification experience in order to be fully registered with the Teaching Council. Currently, this work is certified by the school in which the teacher is employed. 

The Teaching Council

The Teaching Council (An Chomhairle Mhúinteoireachta) is the professional standards body for the teaching profession, which promotes and regulates professional standards in teaching. It acts in the interests of the public good while upholding and enhancing standards in the teaching profession. As the professional body for teaching in Ireland, the Teaching Council has many functions relating to teacher education. These functions span the entire teaching career from entry to initial teacher education programmes, accreditation of such programmes, and induction of newly qualified teachers into the profession, to the continuing professional development of teachers throughout their careers.

All newly qualified primary and post-primary teachers have access to professional support through the National Induction Programme for teachers (NIPT).  The Teaching Council has piloted a new probation and induction process at primary and post-primary level since 2013/14. The process, known as Droichead is an integrated professional induction framework for newly qualified teachers. It has been designed in collaboration with the profession to reflect the importance of induction for newly qualified teachers (NQTs), recognising that induction is a distinct phase of the continuum of teacher education, and a socialisation process into the teaching profession. Droichead is fundamentally about the NQT’s professional journey and the process of their induction.

Droichead, as a non-evaluative professional induction framework, is markedly different from the traditional forms of post-qualification professional practice which applied in schools at primary (probation) and post-primary (post-qualification employment) levels in the past. It is school-based with a team of fellow professionals (Professional Support Team- PST) providing both support and judging quality (signing off on NQT reaching the standards laid down by the Council). There are two key strands of the Droichead process. The first strand is school-based induction (Strand A), through which the NQT is supported by experienced colleagues.

The second strand is made up of additional professional learning activities (Strand B), which involves attendance at NQT cluster meetings in local education centres, and one other professional learning activity, related to the needs of the NQT. The Teaching Council is committed to ensuring that the quality of support for NQTs embarking on their career will be maintained and enhanced through the professional leadership of their experienced colleagues. Arising from its review, the Teaching Council has made provision for the incremental growth of Droichead in schools from September 2017 with further awareness-raising about its nature and for the capacity of the NIPT to be increased and developed to support the growth with a view to full implementation by the school year 2020/2021.

Departmental inspectors continue to evaluate the work of NQTs in non-pilot primary schools on behalf of the Council until the new process is fully embedded.

Admission Requirements

Early Childhood Education and Care

The completion of the Leaving Certificate is the typical requirement for entry to the Level 5 award in ELC. However, this requirement may be waived where applicants have previous relevant experience.  Many applicants for Level 7 and 8 degrees complete the Leaving Certificate and apply through the CAO system. In addition, a significant proportion of those undertaking qualifications in ELC at levels 6 to 8 on the NFQ are already working in the sector, having achieved a level 5 qualification before entering the workforce.

School Education


Since 1992, application for entry to the Colleges of Education to qualify as primary teachers has been made through the Central Applications Office (CAO) for entry to higher level education. Grades obtained in the schools' Leaving Certificate examination are converted to points and competition for places in four of the Colleges is processed in the same way as any other course. An exception is the Church of Ireland College of Education, which gives priority to members of the Church and which organises an interview as part of the application process. Entry requirements for all colleges include the achievement of specified minimum grades in Irish, English and Mathematics. In addition, three other subjects must be included for the computing of the points. The academic status of candidates, as measured by Leaving Certificate performance remains high from year to year and competition for places is very keen.

Admission to the post-graduate Programme in Primary Teaching (which is provided by four of the Colleges {with the exception of Church of Ireland College of Education} and the private provider) requires applicants to hold a minimum Level 8 degree on the National Framework of Qualifications (NQF).  Applicants must also have achieved either specified minimum grades in Irish, English and Mathematics in the Leaving Certificate or hold approved alternative qualifications in these subject areas.  Once applicants have satisfied the minimum academic requirements, selection is on the basis of a competitive interview and a competitive oral Irish examination.

The Department of Education and Skills controls the number of entrants to primary teacher education courses provided by the state-funded Colleges of Education and sets the entry requirements for all primary teacher education courses. The Teaching Council has a remit to advise the Minister for Education and Skills in relation to the minimum standards of educational qualifications required for entry into programmes of teacher education and has been formally tasked by the DES to so do.

Special Entry Schemes


The Colleges of Education operate a number of special entry schemes to the Bachelor of Education as follows:

  • Up to 10% of the places can be reserved for mature students who must not be less than 23 years of age on 1 January of the year of entry. Once applicants have satisfied the minimum academic requirements, selection is on the basis of a competitive interview and a competitive oral Irish examination;
  • Up to 5% of their annual intake figure may be reserved for students from disadvantaged areas   Colleges operating the scheme may also provide other specific support, including financial, to assist and enable students who do not have a tradition of progression to higher education to gain entry to the College, and to participate fully in the various aspects of college life, both academic and cultural while participating in the course;
  • Since 1961, up to 10% of places are reserved for qualified students from the Gaeltacht (Irish speaking districts) in an effort to maintain the impact of native speakers of Irish on the primary teaching profession.

Admission requirements and arrangements for post-primary teacher education vary in relation to whether it is a consecutive or concurrent course, and to the nature of the teacher qualification required. In 1994, the Higher Education Authority, following consultation with the department of education and skills and university representatives, imposed a national quota for entrance to the Postgraduate Diploma in Education (now the Professional Diploma in Education, PDE), incorporating quotas for each of the five universities which offer this course.

This quota, which does not involve designated subject areas, has been subject to minor variations linked to supply and demand issues. There is a separate subject quota in operation for business and business-related degrees. This was deemed necessary due to the over-subscription of these degree holders on to some PDE programmes.

In 1998, the four National University of Ireland institutions established a company, the Post Graduate Application Centre to operate a centralised system of selecting candidates for the four institutions. The Centre has since expanded to include other HEIs including DCU which also offers a post graduate course for post primary teaching.  This system has worked very efficiently, greatly reducing administrative work for both applicants and the institutions. Competition for entry is very keen, with almost three qualified applicants seeking each place available. The usual closing date for applications is in early December of the year before entry but late applications may be accepted up to mid-January. The main criteria for selection involve the standard of undergraduate, other academic achievement and credit for periods of earlier paid teaching experience.

Trinity College Dublin operates an individual process of selection into its Professional Diploma in Education, which incorporates an interview.

Applicants for the Higher Diploma for Art and Design Teachers (consecutive) and for the concurrent degree in art and design education undergo an interview and portfolio assessment together with recognition and assessment of their academic achievements.

Applications for entry to the University of Limerick which provides post-primary initial teacher education programmes for the teaching of physical education, physics, chemistry, biological sciences, materials and engineering technology, and materials and architectural technology are all processed through the Central Applications Office (CAO), which places applicants in an order of merit from which candidates are called for selection tests.

Aspirants to the Bachelor of Religious Science (B.Rel.Sc) degree in the Mater Dei Institute (MDI, DCU) are also selected on their Leaving Certificate Examination results, and the applications are processed through the CAO. Applications for entry to the B.Ed., Sports Studies and PE and BSc(Ed) Science Education programmes offered by University College Cork are also processed through the CAO.

In the case of the Home Economics College, the basic minimum entry requirements are the same as those for the universities to which it is attached. The applications are also processed through the CAO, which places candidates in order of merit. Applicants are required to undergo an interview and tests in home management, needlework and oral Irish. Places are offered to those applicants who achieve the highest combined totals on the various tests. In 2003, St. Angela's College, Sligo (a college of NUI Galway) was designated as the sole provider for Home Economics teacher education in Ireland.

The private provider, Hibernia College, also delivers a Professional Diploma in Education over two years. The programme is accredited for the following thirteen teaching subjects: Gaeilge (Irish), English, modern languages, history, geography, CSPE, mathematics, physics, chemistry, biology, accounting, business and economics.

While admission requirements are the responsibility of the institutions and universities, the State sets down some essential requirements e.g., Irish as a compulsory subject for entry to primary teaching.

The Teaching Council has a remit to advise the Minister for Education and Skills in relation to the minimum standards of educational qualifications required for entry into programmes of teacher education. The Teaching Council conducted a consultation process on the post-primary curricular subject requirements for registration during 2012. New criteria were approved by the Council and greed by the Minister for Education & Skills. The new requirements were published in October 2013 and took effect for those applying for registration in 2017.

The new requirements have been incorporated into those reconceptualised post-primary concurrent ITE programmes currently being reviewed by the Council. The Teaching Council also published proposed minimum entry requirements for Primary Teacher Education in 2011 as part of their document: Initial Teacher Education: Criteria and Guidelines for Programme Providers(Revised March 2017, in accordance with Section 38 of the Teaching Council Act, 2001). The Council initiated a consultation process in relation to these revised minimum entry requirements and, following consideration of the feedback which emerged during that process gathered evidence to inform the advice offered to the Minister and subsequently implemented.

Curriculum, Level of Specialisation and Learning Outcomes

Early Childhood Education and Care

In 2019 Quality and Qualifications Ireland (QQI) published annotated Professional Award Type Descriptors (PATD) for new major awards in ELC at Levels 5 and 6 on the NFQ with new programmes commencing from 2021.

The Qualifications Advisory Board (QAB) was instituted by the Minister for Education and the Minister for Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth on a non-statutory basis to review Initial Professional Education (Level 7 and Level 8) Degree Programmes for the Early Learning and Care (ELC) Sector. It follows the publication in 2019 of the Professional Award Criteria and Guidelines (PACG) for Initial Professional Education (Level 7 and Level 8) Degree Programmes for the Early Learning and Care (ELC) Sector in Ireland as agreed by the two Ministers.

The Qualifications Advisory Board is tasked with:

  • reviewing programme proposals and confirming their coherence with the PACG through the provision of expert reports.
  • advising whether a programme, once validated as a professional award, can be considered for inclusion on a revised list of professional qualifications for the ELC sector.

School Education

Prior to primary teacher education coming under the validation of the universities in 1974, the State Department of Education stipulated the nature of the courses and teaching practice in the Colleges of Education. The Department, on the advice of the National Council for Curriculum and Assessment (NCCA), decided on curricular policy for primary and post-primary teacher education. This is no longer the case, however, as from time to time, curricular changes require changes in teacher education courses. The institutions tend to be very pro-active in ensuring that teacher education courses are responsive to such changes.

Traditionally, HEIs exercised academic autonomy on the nature of the teacher education courses provided for post-primary teachers. At post-primary level teachers are generally expected to teach two subjects as their main teaching assignment. However, since the Teaching Council published its Initial Teacher Education: Criteria and Guidelines for Programme Providers in 2011, HEIs have had to take account of certain stipulations. As well as specifying certain requirements regarding the degree aspect, the education dimension of the programmes has had to incorporate three major areas: Studies in the Foundations of Education, e.g. psychology, sociology; Professional Studies in general and specific methodology aimed for the 12-18 year old age group; and Practical Teaching Experience i.e. at least 24 weeks School Placement which must take place in a minimum of two settings incorporating a variety of teaching situations. Students are required to pass the school placement element of the ITE programme independently of any other element of the programme to achieve the qualification being awarded.

The pace of change in the education system since the 1990s, including significant changes to, and reform of, curriculum, pedagogy and assessment at both primary and post-primary levels, together with the pace of legislative change in the education sector, has had a significant impact on teaching. The introduction of Aistear, the new framework for early childhood education, brought into focus the work of teachers in the junior classes of primary school. The Government’s 20-Year Strategy for the Irish Language (Straitéis 20 Bliain don Ghaeilge 2010-2030highlights the challenges and requirements that arise in preparing teachers to teach Irish throughout their careers.

Its Draft National Plan to Improve Literacy and Numeracy in Schools highlights the challenges which arise in relation to literacy and numeracy and the developments that are needed to enhance the skills of teachers in teaching literacy and numeracy. The emergence of new technologies and social media play a central role in the way young people communicate and learn and this is having an impact across all education provision. Regard for social inclusion, the early identification of children with learning difficulties, multiculturalism, partnership with parents and ICT are increasingly significant issues. There is a heightened expectation in relation to the role of teachers and a major cultural shift whereby teaching now requires a much greater degree of interaction with students, colleagues, parents and co-professionals.


The emergence of new knowledge, understandings and insights into curriculum, pedagogy, assessment and teacher learning, together with the accelerating pace of societal, legislative and educational reform and the increasingly complex role of teachers, provide an important context for the Teaching Council’s policy paper on the Continuum of Teacher Education, published in July 2011, together with the National Strategy to Improve Literacy and Numeracy among Children and Young People. Thus, the extension of concurrent teacher education programmes (primary & post primary) to a minimum of four years with post-graduate programmes of teacher education (primary & post primary) to take place over two years was recommended. This document also provides clarity for HEIs on what is required to ensure that their programmes meet the Council’s accreditation requirements.

The lengthened and reconfigured programmes focus on the personal development of the student teacher together with preparation for life in the classroom and for active engagement in teaching within a professional learning community. In this regard, programme components draw upon the Teaching Council’s Code of Professional Conduct. The foundation studies, professional studies, the school placement and, as appropriate, the subject disciplines, are carefully planned in light of changing understandings of the nature of learning and the theory-practice relationship with an appropriate balance and inter-relationship.

Student teachers on post-graduate programmes (consecutive model) of initial teacher education, ITE for post-primary teachers, will have undertaken their study of subject content knowledge at undergraduate stage. In the concurrent model of teacher education, the subject discipline components give due cognisance to the relevant syllabuses and are integrated into the programme in a way that is meaningful for student teachers. Foundation studies include curriculum studies, the history and policy of education, philosophy of education, psychology of education and sociology of education.

Through macro curriculum studies, students develop their understanding of, and capacity to critically engage with, curriculum aims, design, policy, reform, pedagogy and assessment. Students’ understanding of the Irish education system is enhanced and located in context to enable students to think critically and to provide research-informed insights into their understanding of the practices of teaching, learning and assessment. In illuminating key dimensions of the professional context in which the thinking and actions of teachers are carried out the basis of a strong professional ethic in teaching is provided.

Professional studies include subject pedagogies (methodologies) and curricular studies, develop pedagogical content knowledge, advance the communicative skills of student teachers and ensure that teaching itself is understood and practised as a form of self-critical learning by student teachers, with ample opportunities for teamwork and enquiry-based initiatives with colleagues.

The inclusion of substantial periods of school placement is central to student teacher development. The school placement experience is regarded as a valuable opportunity for student teacher development and not merely as a means of assessing student teacher performance. The school placement is advised to take place in a variety of settings and incorporate a variety of teaching situations and school contexts:

  • Different age groups of students;
  • Different sectors, (primary/post-primary/FE), as appropriate;
  • Various socio-economic and cultural environments;
  • Multi-class and mixed ability teaching situations; and
  • Team teaching/co-teaching situations.

Student teachers will typically spend in the region of 18 to 24 weeks in schools, with consecutive programmes generally having a shorter period in schools. The Teaching Council's Guidelines on School Placement provide a structure for the school placement and are aimed at promoting collaboration and balance of responsibility between programme providers and schools.

The school placement provides opportunities for student teachers to integrate theory and practice, plan for, and undertake, class teaching, learning and assessment using a wide range of strategies, develop classroom, organisational and behaviour management skills, observe experienced teachers teaching and be involved in a wide range of school activities, reflect critically on their practice, receive and respond to feedback on their practice and seek and receive advice and guidance in a supportive environment.

New and innovative school placement models are being developed using a partnership approach, whereby HEIs and schools actively collaborate in the organisation of the school placement. Such models are being actively fostered by providers based on a written policy on partnership with schools. The HEIs and the Teaching Council have published guidelines to support the development of such models. Due to its importance and relevance, a student teacher is required to pass the school placement element of his/her teacher education programme independently of any other element of the programme to achieve the qualification being awarded.

The Teaching Council includes the following as mandatory elements in all ITE programmes:

  1. Early Childhood Education (Primary)/Adolescent Learning (Post primary);
  2. Inclusive Education (Special Education, Multiculturalism, Disadvantage, etc.);
  3. Numeracy;
  4. Literacy;
  5. Gaeilge (Primary);
  6. The Teacher as Professional/Reflective Practitioner/Researcher;
  7. Developing a Professional Portfolio;
  8. Parents in Education - Co-operation and Collaboration;
  9. The School as a Learning Community;
  10. Preparation for School Placement;
  11. Teaching, Learning and Assessment including School and Classroom Planning;
  12. Differentiation;
  13. Behaviour Management;
  14. ICT in Teaching and Learning;
  15. Legislation Relevant to School and Classroom;
  16. The Teacher and External Agencies.

Teacher Educators

Early Childhood Education Care

Both the PATD and PACG set out the qualification requirements for those teaching on Level 5-8 programmes in ELC.  Teaching staff for level 5 and 6 programmes should hold a major award at NFQ Level 7 or higher and either a teaching qualification of five years or more teaching experience on programmes designed to prepare learners for practice in the ELC sector.

Programme Staff for level 7 and 8 programmes should be qualified and capable with expertise and experience in ELC. Normally staff should be qualified to one level above that which the participant on the programme is expected to attain. Allied professionals may also engage with students for discrete aspects of the course (e.g., psychologists, nutritionists, etc.). In addition, programme staff should be research active and take lead roles in relation to conducting, supervising and publishing research.

School Education

Higher Education consists of seven universities, with their associated colleges of education, fourteen institutes of technology, and a number of private independent colleges. These bodies  are autonomous and self-governing and are responsible for the recruitment of their own employees.  Arrangements vary depending on the funding and status of the provider e.g. the Church of Ireland College of Education must receive sanction from the Department of Education and Skills for the recruitment of staff and their terms of employment. Hibernia College is a private provider and the State has no involvement in its staffing.  The Teaching Council in its 2011 document, Initial Teacher Education: Criteria and Guidelines for Programme Providers, specifies that Lecturers and other staff responsible for the student teachers’ learning should be suitably qualified and experienced and engaged in contemporary discourse in their area. Staff should also have a qualification which is higher than that which the student is expected to attain.  The guidelines also specific an academic/staff student ration of 15:1. Under Section 25 of the Universities Act, 1997, the universities are responsible for appointing their own employees, the number of employees and the terms of employment. Under Section 50 of the Act, the HEA, in consultation with the chief officer of the HEI, may issue guidelines for the numbers or grades of employees of the university. However, these guidelines are not binding.

Within the university sector the main categories of academic staff are Professor, Associate Professor, Senior Lecturer and Lecturer. Within the Colleges of Education the main categories of academic staff are Senior Lecturer, Lecturer, and Assistant Lecturer.

Qualifications, Evaluation and Certificates

Early Childhood Education and Care

Under the Child Care Act 1991 (Early Years Services) Regulations 2016, all staff working directly with children in a pre-school service must hold at least a Level 5 major award in early childhood care and education on the National Framework of Qualifications (NFQ), or a qualification deemed by the Minister to be equivalent. The Department of Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth (DCEDIY) acts as the competent authority in this regard.

DCEDIY has published a list of qualifications that meet both regulatory and contractual requirements for working in early learning and care services. If an individual's qualification does not appear on the list, they may apply to DCEDIY to have it assessed for equivalence.

The QQI, through the PATD, and the QAB, through the PACG, have set out the learning outcomes of the education and training programmes from levels 5 to 8 on the NFQ.

School Education

The Teaching Council is the statutory body that sets and upholds the standards for entry to the teaching profession.  One of the ways it does this is by reviewing and accrediting programmes of teacher education and training provided by Higher Education Institutions (HEIs) in the State.

The Council's professional accreditation function is distinct from the process of academic accreditation which programmes also undergo. Academic accreditation is based on the suitability of a programme for the award of a degree/diploma; whereas professional accreditation is a judgement as to whether a programme prepares one for entry into that profession.

All teacher education programmes in Ireland that lead to registration must have professional accreditation. Existing programmes in Ireland that are recognised for registration purposes are deemed to have current accreditation, pending their review by the Teaching Council. All new teacher education programmes wishing to be recognised for registration purposes must be presented to the Council for review prior to accreditation.  In 2009, the Council began reviewing programmes on a pilot basis. Four reviews were completed in the 2009/2010 academic year.  A further four programmes were recently reviewed. Following the publication of its programme accreditation criteria in 2011, Initial Teacher Education: Criteria and Guidelines for Programme Providers, all programmes of initial teacher education were reconceptualised in line with those criteria, and an intensive phase of programme reviews was commenced by the Council.

A further quality assurance mechanism is periodic reviews such as those conducted by the OECD, or the Ministerial Review Bodies on primary and post-primary teacher education. Such periodic reviews have the benefit of encouraging self-assessment by education departments, while bringing fresh thinking and insights to bear from external experts and stakeholders.

The state recognises all the awards of the universities and the QQI. The formal certificates issued by the institutions (e.g. B.Ed. Degree, Post Graduate Diploma in primary education, etc.) set out the subjects and levels of award attained by the graduate in the university examinations which may include written examinations, practical assignments, orals, as well as practical teaching experience. Awards are usually at pass, second class honours or first class honours levels. The awards are recognised throughout the state, within the E.U. and in most countries internationally. Transcripts with more detailed records of students' participation and achievements are also made available to students by institutions on request. School employers sometimes request personal references regarding job applicants from the institutions.

Alternative Training Pathways

Early Childhood Education and Care

There are a number of pathways to access training in order to work in the early learning and care sector including part-time and blended learning courses in further and higher education institutions in Ireland.

Nurturing Skills: The Workforce Plan for Early Learning and Care and School-Age Childcare, 2022-2028 contains a commitment to examine the development of a range of entry routes into the sector, including apprenticeships or other work-based learning, and access programmes in FE and HE.  

School Education

Suitable graduates may undertake a special course for primary teacher education, as an alternative to the more general B.Ed. route in four of the state funded Colleges of Education. In 2003, Hibernia College was established as an online higher level institution delivering web-based educational programmes. It initiated a blended learning model or its Higher Diploma in Arts in Primary Education which was initially of eighteen months duration and from 2012/13 became a two year course. In May 2011, it was accredited by the Teaching Council to provide a Professional Diploma in Post-Primary Education for three academic years.

It is also the case that an increasing number of mature students from other career paths have been applying for entry to primary and post-primary teacher education programmes. While such applicants are welcomed for their experience to the teaching corps, they are required to fulfil the requirements of the existing concurrent or consecutive courses. As most of such candidates are already graduates, they mainly undertake the Professional Diploma in Education to become a teacher at second level and the Primary Post graduate course to become a teacher at primary level.


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