Ambition aplenty but no cash: the lot of a PGCE student

9th September 2011 at 01:00

I applied for a place on my PGCE course thinking I would get a #163;4,000 bursary, but the Government cut it after I was offered and accepted a place.

I then assumed that I would be able to get a maintenance loan to cover my living expenses, in addition to the tuition-fee loan.

I was half right: I am eligible to receive a percentage of the total available loan because I am under 25. But I am deemed not independent of my parents, and mine earn in excess of the upper limit for anything more than the minimum loan.

I had to choose between postponing the course until next year and possibly facing #163;9,000 fees, or swallowing my pride and asking for a loan from the Bank of Mum and Dad. It was an agonising decision.

I got a #163;1,000 loan from my mother, but immediately continued my search for other funding opportunities. I discovered that I was not eligible for the ones that existed; university bursaries are only for those eligible for student finance bursaries. There are also charities that help needy students - but apparently not trainee teachers from a family whose income exceeds certain financial criteria.

There are about five placements on my course, the first of which is far away from my home, my parents' home and any friends' homes, so it will cost #163;350 for travel, 10 days' accommodation, and maybe some food. I am seriously considering camping.

The cost of the other placements - with an average travel fee of #163;10 a day because we could be based up to an hour from our homes - works out at around #163;700. My university will not reimburse these costs.

A large part of the loan from my mother was spent as follows:

- #163;150 on two weeks' rent;

- #163;350 on a deposit on a rental property;

- #163;20 on a pay-as-you-go mobile phone;

- #163;54 on contact lenses;

- #163;30 on two weeks' pay-as-you-go internet while I wait for the connection to be set up in my new home;

- #163;84 on car insurance and petrol.

I receive #163;1,150, the first instalment of my loan, on 29 September, and it will be a tight squeeze to make it last until the next instalment. I want to get on with preparing for my course, but I am spending time trying to get credit cards and overdraft facilities. I can't rest until money is taken care of.

Emma Hames, Address supplied

Ambition aplenty but no cash: the lot of a PGCE student Professor Alan Smithers ("'Wasteful' training system slammed", 12 August) believes poor training stops new teachers taking up posts. I'm a successful PGCE graduate in a shortage field, but, despite loving my time in the classroom, I don't want to be a teacher if I can avoid it.

I have just graduated with a PGCE from Bristol University. I have great references from my placement schools and from the university. I thoroughly enjoyed my classroom time, had little or no problem with behaviour management, and was commended on my rapport with pupils.

But as a mature student with a career behind me, I became more and more aware that teachers are doing a job that:

- has a relentless timetable, short breaks, hardly any time for lunch, and work that must be taken home most evenings and weekends;

- is extremely family-unfriendly;

- has a high duty of care;

- has many legal and pastoral responsibilities;

- is under constant scrutiny from the media, parents and politicians.

For all their effort, intellect, training and workload, new teachers are paid slightly more than bus drivers, and rather less than binmen.

An analysis of retention of trainee teachers must include the reality of the salary compared to the job done. Simply blaming the situation on a training mismatch is simplistic and naive.

Name and address supplied.

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