Diversifying Ireland’s relatively homogeneous teaching population has been a policy concern in Ireland for over a decade and became an increasingly important focus following the rapid transformation of Irish society and schooling following the high levels of inward migration during the ‘Celtic Tiger’ years.
In this paper, drawing on data from the Irish Research Council-funded Diversity in Initial Teacher Education (DITE) national research project, we examine the 2014 state-funded national ITE applicant and entrant cohort in relation to their nationality/ies and ethnicity/ies. The overwhelming majority of respondents claimed Irish only nationality and were of ‘White Irish’ ethnicity. Respondents’ constructions of their ethnicity privileged nationality and skin colour.
The significant over-representation of ‘White Irish’ ethnic groups in Irish ITE in our findings relative to both the general Irish and general higher education populations is an important factor in discussions about the development of what is said to be ‘evidence-based policy’ in widening participation in ITE. In this context, we critically examine the Irish Government’s Programme for Access to Higher Education (PATH) initiative (2016) aimed at the recruitment into ITE of those target groups identified in the 2015-2019 National Access Plan, from which minority ethnic groups (other than Travellers) are omitted. We raise questions about the appropriateness of the application of national HE target groups in an ITE context and about what this policy absence may reveal, including a consideration of those factors which may constrain commitment to evidence-based policy development and enaction.