NUI Galway Launch Access to Post-Primary Teaching Project

From left, Professor Liz Thomas, Director and Chair, Widening Participation Research Centre, Edge Hill University, England; Eilish Bergin, Department of Education and Skills; Sarah Kearns, Department of Education and Skills; Dr Andrea Lynch, APT Post-Doctoral Researcher, School of Education, NUI Galway; Dr Manuela Heinz, APT Principal Investigator, School of Education, NUI Galway; Neil McDermott, Senior Manager, Access Policy, Higher Education Authority; and Dr Elaine Keane, APT Principal Investigator, School of Education, NUI Galway.
May 28 2019 Posted: 10:29 IST

As part of the celebrations for ‘The 20th Anniversary of Access at NUI Galway’, the Access to Post-Primary Teaching (APT) Project Launch and Schools’ Event took place recently at NUI Galway. The APT project, funded by the Higher Education Authority under the Programme for Access to Higher Education (PATH), Strand 1 (Equity of Access to Initial Teacher Education), is a three-year joint initiative between NUI Galway and St. Angela’s College, Sligo, and aims to support the progression and retention of those from lower socio-economic groups in Initial Teacher Education (ITE).

The APT Project was formally launched by Professor Gerry MacRuairc, Head of NUI Galway’s School of Education. Over 100 senior cycle pupils and their teachers from schools across the Border, Midlands and Western (BMW) region, and the APT project contributors, participated in the day-long event. The sessions were aimed at supporting school pupils’ higher education and career planning, including in relation to teaching as a career.

The NUI Galway aspect of the APT project is led by APT Principal Investigators, Drs Elaine Keane and Manuela Heinz, and Dr Andrea Lynch, APT Post-Doctoral Researcher, in the School of Education, in partnership with the Access Centre and the Career Development Centre. The project is supported by funding from Galway University Foundation and the HEA.

Drs Keane and Heinz previously implemented the highly successful Diversity in Initial Teacher Education (DITE) national research project (funded by the Irish Research Council), establishing the first national evidence base in relation to the socio-demographic profile of applicants and entrants to ITE in Ireland. Drs Keane and Heinz published their findings in a range of peer-reviewed journals demonstrating the homogeneity of the ITE population in Ireland and the particular under-representation of those from lower socio-economic and minority ethnic backgrounds and those with disabilities. Dr Keane was subsequently invited to be a member of the Department of Education and Skills Working Group (Diversity in Initial Teacher Education) which led to the establishment of PATH1 funding to diversify ITE.

Dr Elaine Keane said: “It was a privilege for us in the School of Education to host students from many schools in Galway and beyond, including from Donegal, at our APT project event. Diversifying the teaching profession has long been a core research focus for us here in the School and, through the APT project, we are now working to attract and support those from under-represented groups in our teaching programme. We were delighted by the response of the pupils to the day!”

The APT project currently supports 21 participants in the Professional Master of Education programme in the School of Education at NUI Galway, and also works with senior cycle school pupils in DEIS schools, through the APT participants’ school placements as student teachers, in relation to higher education progression, and career planning.

Dr Manuela Heinz commented: “It was fantastic to see so many second-level students actively participating during lectures and workshops and showing an interest in teaching and higher education. We hope that the students have gained a better understanding of the many routes that are available to them with regard to their future career choices. We would definitely love to see some of them again in the future at NUI Galway and, hopefully, in the School of Education.”

Dr Andrea Lynch said: “The APT event was an exciting and inspiring day for all! Numerous graduates from under-represented groups graciously shared their stories of overcoming educational barriers, demonstrating that with adequate support, hard-work and determination can pay off in the pursuit of dreams and goals. We hope the day will have life changing consequences for those who attended.”

For more information on the APT Project visit, or contact Dr Elaine Keane at,  Dr Manuela Heinz,, or Dr Andrea Lynch,


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