The Union of Students in Ireland (USI) has launched a campaign with teachers’ unions to eliminate the costs for student teachers on class placements which is a mandatory aspect of their course.
Over the past few years, amendments were made to the primary teaching undergraduate and master’s programmes which have seen both the courses and placement periods extended. While the upgrading of the teacher education programme to masters level was welcomed, there is a deep concern over the financial burden on students undertaking such a placement.
“Along with working part-time jobs, we’re hearing of some placements lasting 30 – 35 hours a week with no support for travel, food or materials. The reality is, students can’t cope with the cost of living without another job on top of this” said USI President Michael Kerrigan.
Assistant General Secretary of the ASTI Moira Leydon also expressed concern over the costs that student teachers incur during their initial teacher education.
“The fact that these students will then graduate into a labour market where they will be in temporary and temporary contracts for the first years of their career makes this all the more unfair,” she said.
DCUSU along with Mary Immaculate College SU, Maynooth SU and Marino SU are highlighting the campaign and urging student teachers and graduates to fill out a short survey carried out by teachers’ unions to help drive the effort forward.
Responding to the current concerns, DCUSU Vice President for Education and Placement Matt Davey said DCUSU and other student unions are worried that teaching may only be a profession for the upper classes.
“We feel very strongly that someone’s financial position should not impact the quality of their teaching, the quality of education that children receive from these young student teachers and should not impact on their grade for placement either,” he said.
Davey is calling on student teachers to voice their experience so there is clear evidence of the financial strain placed on them.
Lorna Devane, a student at DCU St. Patrick’s Campus explained that the difficulty to pay costs while on placement was a huge pressure on student teachers who spend a tremendous amount time and effort on teaching practice.
“Although we may be seven hours in the school, most students spend every night planning and prepping for the next day until the early hours of the morning. Financial support would be one less thing to worry about and would mean we could put even more time into our main focus of becoming better teachers,” she said.