The position is that teaching practice is an integral part of the curriculum for the training of both primary and post-primary teachers. It is not a paid activity because it is viewed as training rather than employment. On that basis, my Department does not provide special financial assistance for students towards costs associated with teaching practice.
The Deputy will be aware that teacher education programmes provided in approved third level institutions are, however, approved courses for the purposes of the higher education grants scheme. Under the terms of the scheme, grant holders who are required to participate in off-campus placement as part of their course of study may have their grant entitlement paid in the normal manner. Accordingly, student teachers who are eligible for grant assistance continue to receive their entitlements while undertaking teaching practice.
In addition, my Department allocates funding each year to third level institutions under the student assistance fund. This fund is available in order to assist students who may be experiencing difficulties in continuing their studies because of financial hardship. The disbursement of this funding is a matter for individual institutions in line with guidelines issued by my Department.
My Department has no plans at present to introduce a scheme of financial assistance, over and above the current provision, for trainee teachers to cover costs associated with teaching practice.