During the Celtic Tiger years, many of Irelands schools evolved from having a relatively homogeneous student intake to one characterized by significant ethnic, religious, racial and linguistic diversity (Smyth, Darmody, McGinnity & Byrne, 2009). By contrast, the teaching population has remained relatively homogeneous (Heinz, 2013; Keane & Heinz, 2015). Diversifying the teaching population is of international concern, as it is in Ireland, on research and policy levels (Conway et al. 2009; Higher Education Authority, 2015; Keane & Heinz, 2015; Teaching Council 2008, 2011).
In this presentation we will describe and compare the socio-demographic backgrounds (including sex, gender, age, nationality, ethnicity and first language, socio-economic group, disability and religion) of applicants and entrants to undergraduate primary (UG P) initial teacher education (ITE) programmes in the Republic of Ireland in 2014 (N=1,042). The following core research questions are guiding our analysis:
1. What is the socio-demographic composition of UG P ITE students has this composition changed since 1999 (Drudy et al., 2005)?
2. What groups are currently under-represented in UG P ITE programmes, in terms of those who apply and are accepted?
3. How, and to what extent, may ITE selection processes and criteria and/or other system/contextual factors impact upon the socio-demographic composition of UG P student teacher populations and patterns of under-representation?
4. What measures could be considered to increase the participation rates of currently under-represented groups in UG P ITE?
Data has been collected via a cross-sectional online questionnaire which forms part of our wider Diversity in Initial Teacher Education (DITE) in Ireland national study (Keane & Heinz, 2015).
With regard to the rationale for diversifying the teaching population, our discussion will be framed by two important perspectives: 1) an equity of access perspective, in terms of the composition of teaching populations along socio-demographic lines, and 2) the benefits of a diverse teaching population for students, schools and wider society (Keane & Heinz, 2015).