Trainee teachers struggle as bursary withdrawn

Thousands of trainee teachers are facing possible financial hardship after a promised government bursary was withdrawn after they had applied for their courses. This is from the Guardian…

Some of those studying to be further education teachers say the loss of the bursary has severely affected their finances and that they would not have begun the course had they known the situation.

Trainee FE teachers have previously received varying amounts of cash support and in February John Hayes, the then junior minister in the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS), announced that the 2012-13 intake would get bursaries of £1,000, rising to £1,500 if they were studying to teach maths or English.

A month later a written statement from Hayes confirmed the payments, saying that “the most effective administration of the bursaries” was being discussed with the Learning and Skills Improvement Service (LSIS), the quango administering the scheme.

But in mid-July LSIS announced that the bursaries had been turned into fee awards, money set against the tuition fees paid by students. While the awards are the same, this meant that rather than receiving a cash sum, the students instead saw a reduction in a long-term debt they would begin paying once they earned above a certain salary.

Beth Marshall, 30, said she learned of the change only after beginning her course at Bolton University in September, having counted the £1,500 in her budget to pay living costs. “My partner and I have done everything we can do to reduce our outgoings but it’s very, very difficult,” she said. “If I’d known this would happen, I’m not sure I could have gone down this route. I would have had to question the financial viability of doing this course.”

Her coursemate Natalie Lowe, 29, said she was told about the bursary at the interview for the course. She said: “It might not sound like a lot of money, but for me it’s the difference between being able to carry on with the course and having to take it one day at a time to see if I can do it. I’ve got four children. I was trying to better our future and it’s like a kick in the teeth.

“My car insurance is due on Monday and I literally haven’t got it. I’m rummaging through the kids’ old clothing to see if I can put anything on eBay to make some extra money. I was thinking about a payday loan till the next lot of student loans comes through, though I know they’re not the best thing.”

Students on courses at universities in Plymouth and Oldham have recounted similar stories. Up to 11,000 students were eligible for the proposed bursary and so far, according to BIS figures, 2,700 students have received the fee award.

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