Student teachers spend over €160 a week to cover placements

Student teachers have to fork out more than €160 a week to cover the costs of classroom placements that are a compulsory part of their training.

Student teachers spend over €160 a week to cover placements

The figure that has emerged from a survey by the Union of Students in Ireland (USI) does not include accommodation costs which some incur, but covers the amount they spend on travel, teaching materials, and food.

The costs assessed by USI also include two mandatory two-week trips that prospective primary teachers must make to the Gaeltacht to improve their Irish.

They cost €750 for fees and accommodation during each trip in their first year and third year, with financial support only available to those who already qualify for a student grant.

USI wants to see the restoration of a state grant for all trainee primary teachers, previously a €637 support towards what was then a three-week Gaeltacht placement, a move that the Department of Education estimated in 2014 would cost around €1m.

A 2012 report to the Teaching Council raised concerns that the cost could deter people from disadvantaged backgrounds from pursuing a teaching career.

The survey was conducted with almost 3,100 people either currently studying or who recently graduated with a teaching qualification.

Almost 60% of them spent between 20 to 35 hours a week on teaching placements, a mandatory part of the training.

The extension of the time to complete teaching qualifications in 2012 included additional classroom placements in order to ensure those getting jobs had adequate experience with students.

More than 40% of those who completed the USI survey spent €30 to €60 a week on teaching resources and materials during their placements. With more teachers looking for more classroom time, it has also made it harder for some to find a school to accommodate them during the placement.

The survey found that around half of trainee teachers spent €20 to €40 a week on travel to their placement schools, while around a quarter had to pay at least €100 a week on accommodation because of the distance from home or college.

Of those who completed their teaching placement in 2017, 42% had considered dropping out due to financial pressures, with the same view taken by nearly one-third of recent graduates.

The report by USI campaigns officer Amy Kelly said the fact more than 95% of respondents found their time on placement highly stressful is due to a combination of financial pressure and other expectations.

More than two-thirds had part-time jobs during their placement, including more than half who did 10 to 20 hours a week. USI said the combined teaching placement and part-time work brings many students close to the maximum working hours allowed by law, which has clear negative implications for their study and their health.

“But more importantly, many students are being forced to work part-time, in many circumstances to pay for the additional costs which are incurred as part of their mandatory training on school placement,” the report states.

USI recommends that student teachers should receive 80% of the entry-level salary while doing placements, and they want that time counted towards the hours of teaching required to achieve professional recognition from the Teaching Council.

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