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College call over RE certificate for trainee teachers

I refer to Jeffrey Dudgeon's article about teacher training in the Belfast Telegraph (DebateNI, January 24).

Stranmillis Teacher Training College was opened in 1922 as a non-denominational college for both men and women. Its historic mission has been to educate teachers from all communities and traditions.

Throughout its history, it has educated students from Protestant and Roman Catholic backgrounds and also those who do not claim any faith position. It always has been - and remains - an inclusive institution.

The eligibility for teaching posts in Catholic maintained nursery and primary schools includes a requirement to possess a recognised religious education certificate.

In recent years, Stranmillis University College has made a number of requests to St Mary's University College that its students should have access to the RE certificate offered by St Mary's.

It was only after the first formal request was rejected, in 2003, that the alternative arrangement of Stranmillis students having access to the RE certificate through a distance-learning programme provided by Glasgow University was introduced.

Students from all community backgrounds have the opportunity to enrol on the programme and the college provides tutorial support. Students who take this course are not asked to pay any fees.

Stranmillis University College is committed to adopting a more integrated, collaborative approach to the delivery of the RE certificate. In recent times, the governing body of Stranmillis University College has again discussed the issue and it has unanimously agreed that we should make a further approach to St Mary's in an effort to explore how the RE certificate might be offered on a collaborative arrangement.

In doing so we have pointed out to St Mary's that we are at a loss to understand why it can be provided at Coleraine, but not at Stranmillis.

DR ANNE HEASLETT

Principal, Stranmillis University College

Belfast Telegraph

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