St Mary’s University College: Ministerial Crusade

Part of Oral Answers to Questions — Employment and Learning – in the Northern Ireland Assembly at 3:15 pm on 9th February 2015.

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Photo of Stephen Farry Stephen Farry Alliance 3:15 pm, 9th February 2015

Let me be clear at the outset: there is no crusade against St Mary's University College, although, at times, if you listen to comments from the college and other political parties, there is perhaps a crusade against me in all of this. We have to recognise that the system we have at present is not working or delivering. It is very much an artificial system, where we subsidise our teacher training, whether through an artificial figure of teachers to be trained, the premia or the expansion into non-initial teacher education (ITE) subjects. We are doing more and more to prop up a system that is not sustainable in its own right.

That is why it is important that we consider reform, in the context of which we can put in place a range of models that can ensure that we protect issues around ethos, including how we can train teachers for the Irish-medium sector. We have seen how reforms have taken place successfully in Glasgow, and more recently — from September — in Dublin. In the case of Dublin, we see a Catholic institution, with a history longer than St Mary's, and a Church of Ireland institution with a history longer than either, coming together with Dublin City University to create a new approach to teacher training in the city. That is happening with the support of the Catholic hierarchy, and issues around ethos can be accommodated within a shared and inclusive environment. That applies to both the Church of Ireland and Catholic Church ethos in teacher training in the Catholic maintained system. That begs this question: if something can be done successfully in Glasgow and Dublin, why is Northern Ireland insisting that it is so different?