Student teachers to receive financial aid for training costs

Students will need to prove financial distress in order to get any payment, claims the USI

Irish student teachers at the launch of the USI report calling for greater financial assistance for struggling students. Photograph: Conor McCabe

Irish student teachers at the launch of the USI report calling for greater financial assistance for struggling students. Photograph: Conor McCabe

 

Student teachers who are struggling with the cost of tuition fees and unpaid school placements are being given access to ring-fenced financial assistance.

Minister for Education Joe McHugh has announced that an additional €1 million is being allocated to the Student Assistance Fund for students completing professional Masters of Education courses.

These two-year programmes – which replaced the old Hdip – cost up to €12,000 and can also involve costly Gaeltacht courses and unpaid work placements in schools. There will be more than 2,200 places for students on these courses in the coming academic year.

Mr McHugh said he was aware of the financial demands placed on these students and that the money would give a significant boost for students in financial difficulty.

He said the move was part of the Department of Education’s wider response to shortages of teachers in key areas.

The new funding brings the total Student Assistance Fund to just over €10 million this year. Students in third level can apply for support under the fund if they experience exceptional financial need.

The Union of Students Ireland (USI) – which has lobbied for an increase – said that while the funding was welcome, the department needed longer-term solutions to ease the teacher supply “crisis”.

The Union of Students in Ireland responds

“The high cost of attending Gaeltacht courses, school placement and masters costs are a big deterrent for those entering the profession and hugely affects diversity of those who end up teaching in our classrooms,” said USI president Síona Cahill.

She said the Student Assistance Fund breaks down to a small amount per individual and there is no guarantee a student will receive it unless they can prove their financial situation and costs leading up to the application.

“The Government needs to strongly consider reinstating the Gaeltacht grant which was erased in 2012, and would have an even wider positive affect for student teachers entering and progressing through the education system across demographics,” Ms Cahill said.

“USI is also concerned that the timing of this announcement may mean a scramble at administrative level by under-pressure college access offices and staff, who will have to figure out how to promote, administer and divide the fund in a way that is appropriate and fair. They needed this funding information last summer.”