The Access to Post-Primary Teaching (APT) Project Launch and Schools’ Event

L-R Dr Andrea Lynch (APT Post-doctoral Researcher). Dr Elaine Keane and Dr Manuela Heinz (APT Principal Investigators)
Jun 24 2019 Posted: 17:16 IST

APT Project Launch and Schools’ Event 2

The Access to Post-Primary Teaching (APT) Project Launch and Schools’ Event took place at NUI Galway on Tuesday, May 21st 2019.  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 NUI Galway aspect of the APT project is led by Dr Elaine Keane and Dr Manuela Heinz (APT Principal Investigators), and Dr Andrea Lynch (APT Post-doctoral Researcher), in the School of Education, in partnership with the Access Centre and the Career Development Centre at NUI Galway.  The project is supported by funding from Galway University Foundation as well as 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. Heinz has been invited and is currently working on the data working group of the Teacher Supply Data Working Group set up by the Department of Education and Skills.

The APT project currently supports 21 participants in the Professional Master of Education (PME) 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.

On Tuesday, May 21st 2019, as part of the celebrations for the 20th Anniversary of Access at NUI Galway, the APT project was formally launched by Professor Gerry MacRuairc, Head of the School of Education.  Over 100 senior cycle pupils from schools across the BMW region,  teachers from these schools, and the APT project participants, participated in the day-long event, which featured presentations and contributions from Professor Liz Thomas (Director and Chair, Widening Participation Research Centre, Edge Hill University, England); Hannagh McGinley (PhD student in the School of Education); APT Project leads Dr. Elaine Keane and Dr Manuela Heinz; Imelda Byrne (Director of Access); Josephine Walsh (Head of Career Development Centre); Dr Olga O’Mahony (Access Centre); Rachel Konisberry (School of Education); and Owen Mac an Bhaird (PME student), as well as small-group workshops facilitated by the Access and Career Development Centres.  The day’s sessions were aimed at supporting school pupils’ higher education and career planning, including in relation to teaching as a career.  Also in attendance were representatives from the Department of Education and Skills (Eilish Bergin and Sarah Kearns) and the Higher Education Authority (Neil McDermott, Senior Manager, Access Policy).

APT Project Launch and Schools’ Event 3

Dr Elaine Keane:  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 Access to Post-primary (APT) project event.  Diversifying the teaching profession has long been a core research focus for us here in the School; through the Diversity in Initial Teacher Education (DITE) project, funded by the Irish Research Council, we established a national evidence base regarding the backgrounds and motivations of those applying and entering initial teacher education (ITE). Through the APT project, funded by the Higher Education Authority and Galway University Foundation, we are acting on this evidence base, and working to attract and support those under-represented in the teaching profession into our flagship ITE programme, the Professional Master of Education (PME).  We currently have 21 APT participants on the PME.  The day was wonderfully inspiring and we were delighted by the response of the school pupils.

Dr Manuela Heinz:  It was fantastic to see so many second-level students actively participating during lectures and workshops throughout the day and showing an interest in teaching and higher education.  The young people asked many thoughtful questions and made a wonderful contribution to this important day.  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.  Teaching is such an important and wonderfully rewarding job and we hope that people from all backgrounds are encouraged to consider it as a career so that we can, hopefully in the near future, see a teaching body that reflects the rich diversity of the population of Ireland.

Dr Andrea Lynch:  The Access to Post-Primary Teaching (APT) Event & Launch was an exciting and inspiring day for all! Numerous Higher Education students and 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.  Additionally, Professor Liz Thomas illustrated the power of Higher Education in changing lives.  It is our hope that the post-primary students who participated in our event won't soon forget the great examples they met today, and that the information shared will have truly life changing consequences.

For more information on the APT Project, contact: Dr Elaine Keane and Dr. Manuela Heinz ( or Dr Andrea Lynch (

Jim Lenaghan

School of Education

Follow @edtechne


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