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"I worry about money every day": The financial stress of second-level initial teacher education in Ireland

In Ireland, the past ten years have seen the emergence of new policies and practices in initial teacher education (ITE) in response to national priorities and the professed aim of progressing standards. A key mechanism of this process was to universally extend the duration of postgraduate ITE programs from twelve to twenty-four months to broaden student teachers' professional development. While this has been a positive move in many aspects, it has also been rendered problematic due to the inability of policymakers to reconstruct financial mechanisms to support student teacher enrolment, retention and progression. This paper examines second-level student teachers' experiences (N = 391) regarding the costs, both financial and emotional, of becoming a teacher in Ireland. The results show that while enrolled on their ITE course, there is a mean deficit of €151 per week in student teacher spending. Over 40% of student teachers rely on their family and/or partner to fund their participation. The qualitative data reveals that this has a huge impact on their personal and family finances and leads to high levels of financial stress. Suggestions on how this financial pressure could be alleviated include paid teaching while on school placement and lowering the cost of the course.

Authors: Dr Mark Prendergast (UCC), Prof Andrew Loxley and Dr Melanie Ni Dhuinn (TCD)