Financial stress serious concern for pre-service teachers

A recent survey of initial teacher education (ITE) students in Victoria conducted by the Australian Education Union Victorian Branch found that more than half (54.3%) of pre-service teachers are extremely concerned about experiencing financial stress during their studies.

The survey, which examined the perceptions of ITE students across metropolitan Melbourne and regional and rural Victoria, also found that:

  • Almost half (48.9%) of students surveyed noted that unpaid placements were a cause of serious concern and acted as a major potential barrier in preventing them from pursuing initial teacher education studies.
  • 64.3% of students stated that they should be funded to undertake placements in schools, which are a requirement of teaching qualifications, to cover the loss of income and associated costs.
  • A significant proportion of students (57.1%), said that expanded school-based internships that would allow them to be employed as paraprofessionals in the last six months of their programs, could also provide support to aspiring teachers.
  • 42% stated that state and federal governments should fund several thousand studentships, with a focus on rural/regional and hard to staff schools, to provide cost of living support during ITE study.

AEU Victoria Branch President Meredith Peace said that the findings revealed just how important it was for decision-makers at all levels to take concrete actions to help support the next generation of teachers.

“To address the teacher shortage, the state government must attract increased numbers of students to study initial teacher education and enter the teaching profession. These survey results demonstrate that real and urgent action by the government can make a real difference to students considering undertaking teaching qualifications, and to current pre-service teachers completing.

“Placements in schools are an essential component of any teaching qualification, and they are vital to ensuring that students receive the training and support necessary to help them develop their skills and knowledge as teachers.

“However, unpaid placements place an undue burden on students and these results make it clear that they are also a major barrier preventing prospective students from enrolling in teaching programs. They also deter pre-service teachers from undertaking placements in rural and regional areas, where current teacher shortages are the most dire.

“And while unpaid placements have an impact on all students, they are specifically concerning for students with care responsibilities, regional students and students from marginalised communities.

“With historic teacher shortages across our state, indeed across the nation’s public schools, state and federal governments must take action to ensure that the pathways to entry for aspiring teachers are as accessible as possible, whilst maintaining qualifications standards. And funding students during their school placements is a vital step in that regard.

“The challenges our public education system is facing are urgent and the solutions to address them must be bold.”

The Australian Education Union has released a Ten-year Plan for Staffing in Public Education, with recommendations for the Victorian Government to retain and attract teachers.

Solutions outlined in the plan include:

  • Funding ITE students undertaking practicums to cover the loss of earnings from part-time or casual employment and other associated costs such as travel
  • Expanding school-based internships, where ITE students can be employed in their final six months of study as a paraprofessional
  • Providing appropriate allowances or stipends for rural students enrolled in ITE to cover study costs and the costs of living away from home
  • Providing ITE students with fully subsidised accommodation when undertaking a practicum in a rural and regional school or kindergarten
  • State and federal governments funding several thousand Victorian studentships for ITE students, with a focus on rural/regional, hard to staff schools, kindergartens and TAFEs.

“The role of teachers in our society is one that is irreplaceable and ensuring that the next generation of teachers have the support they need is in the best interests of students and the community.

“Governments at all levels must address the challenges facing the teaching profession with the urgency and seriousness they deserve,” Ms Peace said.


28 November 2022