Northern Ireland

Catholic teaching qualification offered by Stranmillis

Stranmillis University College
Image caption Stranmillis University College is one of two teacher training colleges in Belfast

Stranmillis College will teach a qualification needed to get a job in Catholic schools for the first time.

Staff have been working with St Mary's University College to deliver the Certificate in Religious Education (RE).

It is necessary to be employed as a teacher in a Catholic primary or nursery school.

It will be taught by Stranmillis academics to degree students from September 2019.

Previously, students there only had the option of an online distance learning course if they wanted to get the certificate.

Education students at St Mary's study for the Certificate in Religious Education as part of their teaching degree.

According to Department of Education (DE) statistics there are 363 Catholic maintained primary schools in Northern Ireland.

Along with the fair employment exemption, the requirement for the RE Certificate has been cited as one of the main reasons teachers - like many schools - are separated along nominally religious lines.

Image copyright PA
Image caption The qualification is needed to get a job in a Catholic primary or nursery school

Stranmills University College and St Mary's University College are the two main teacher education establishments in Northern Ireland.

The principal of Stranmillis, Dr Anne Heaslett, said she was delighted the university could now teach the RE certificate.

"We're very pleased that through our collaboration with our colleagues in St Mary's from September 2019 we are going to offer our students a much richer, more supported opportunity to take the RE certificate," she said.

"It is validated by St Mary's and our staff have already been approved to do the teaching.

"Our students will have the opportunity for the first time to have a taught version of this course which will run alongside years 1,2 and 3 of the bachelor of education."

Dr Heaslett said the move had the backing of students at Stranmillis and would widen their employment opportunities.

'Understanding of the Christian faith'

The principal of St Mary's, Professor Peter Finn, said the partnership between the universities was about sharing knowledge and creating equality for teachers.

"This is a programme of teacher education," he said.

"The students on the programme will have knowledge and understanding of the Christian faith."

"They will have knowledge and understanding of the model of Catholic education and develop the skills which are required both in pedagogy and in planning to put the ideal of the Catholic school into operation in its classrooms and its whole school community."

"This has been a collaborative venture and that's a very good thing in its own right."

The requirement for the RE Certificate has proved controversial at times.

Former Education Minister John O'Dowd called in 2015 for it to be scrapped.

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