The government today announced that an additional €1 million will be allocated to the Student Assistance Fund for student teachers who struggle financially.
In a press statement, Minister for Education Joe McHugh said: “Addressing the current and future challenges in teacher supply is a national priority to which I am fully committed.”
McHugh said that he was “aware of the financial demands placed on students” and that the extra funding would be “a significant boost in financial supports for student teachers who may be experiencing financial difficulties”.
In 2018 the allocation for the fund was €9.1 million and around 16,000 students currently benefit from the fund annually. The new allocation brings the total fund to €10.1 million.
In response to the announcement of the additional funding, the President of the Union of Students in Ireland (USI) Síona Cahill said in a press statement: “While USI welcomes Government recognising our call for a restoration of the Student Assistant fund, the department needs to progress in earnest with long term solutions to ease the Teacher supply crisis, including a commitment of reinstating the Gaeltacht grant, which was erased in 2012, and would have an even wider positive affect [sic] for student teachers entering and progressing through the education system across demographics.”
USI has previously called on the government to reinstate the Gaeltacht grant to alleviate the pressures on student teachers, many of whom are forced to miss work to do mandatory courses in the Gaeltacht at a high cost.
More than 2,200 places in professional master of education courses at state-funded higher education institutions will be available in the 2019/20 academic year. This includes 1,800 places for post-primary master’s in education in the 2019/20 academic year and 420 places for students in the primary teaching master’s.
The targeted additional grant of €1 million is hoped to increase demand for places, potentially easing teacher supply issues.
The additional funding for the Student Assistance Fund is a part of the Government’s new action plan for teacher supply, which was published by McHugh on November 8th, 2018. One of the actions is for the department to explore the provision of additional supports for postgraduate teacher education students.