Pregnancy and parenting while in education
Discovering you’re pregnant while in school or college can bring many worries about the future of your educational journey.
However, it is possible to get through this time with support, planning and of course, determination.
First things first
Let your school, college or training centre know you’re pregnant as soon as you can. If there’s a counsellor available, make an appointment to chat about your education options and general feelings about the pregnancy.
A trusted teacher or lecturer could also put you in the right direction for support and guidance.
You’ll need to make plans with school/college around doctor appointments, time off after birth and possibly extra tuition outside school hours (see below).
Staff need to be are aware of your pregnancy as soon as possible for safety and insurance reasons (for P.E., school outings or while in laboratories etc.).
If your baby is due during school term
The home tuition scheme can help in assisting you with work you might have missed before and after birth (if you are in an Irish secondary school).
It’s a grant given to the school (or your parents) by the Department of Education and Skills to pay teachers to come to your home for extra tuition. This is usually for a maximum of nine hours a week, for ten weeks.
Talk to your principal or vice-principal as early as possible about arranging home tuition.
They’ll write to the department on your behalf and will need to provide evidence of your attendance and some medical confirmation of your pregnancy and due date (i.e. a doctor’s note or hospital reference).
If your baby is due during exams
If you know you will be heavily pregnant or in hospital during exam time, speak to the college or school about making a plan to suit your needs during this time.
Schools and colleges are usually very accommodating for expectant mothers and can arrange a separate room for you to take exams in, or perhaps extra time for breaks or even to take the exams in hospital.
Juggling parenthood and academic demands can be very time-consuming.
Therefore adding a part-time job to the mix may not be feasible. However, there is support available to help you financially.
If you’re parenting without the support of a partner, you may be eligible to apply for the one-parent family payment. This provides weekly financial support for single parents.
Make an appointment with an advisor at your local social welfare office before or straight after your baby is due.
You should be able to discuss how to apply and find out about any other supports for single parents and those in education.
Another option available to those already receiving one parent family payment or other social welfare payments is the back to education allowance, which provides a weekly allowance to those seeking to return to second or third level education.
Speak to an advisor in your local social welfare office about this option.
Student grants (SUSI)
The Irish third-level student grants system (currently known as SUSI), allows for people who are receiving the one parent family payment to also apply for maintenance and fee grants. People receiving this payment may opt to transfer to the back to education allowance.
Those on the back to education allowance cannot apply for the maintenance grant, but may retain secondary payments such as rent supplement and apply for the grant to cover the cost of fees.
Student assistance fund
The student assistance fund provides financial assistance for higher education students who are experiencing financial difficulties whilst attending college and does not affect other payments you are receiving.
Most colleges will have a counsellor or advisor to speak with you about any financial difficulties you are experiencing and how best the college can help you.
Sometimes friends and family can help out with childcare while you’re in education, but this isn’t always possible. Therefore it may be necessary to look for a professional service with trained staff.
Community Childcare Centres often provide subsidised places (lower fee rates) for parents on low income or those in second/third level education.
Campus Childcare is an option in some colleges where the childcare facility is on the campus of the college. These may also be subsidised according to means testing.
Other colleges might have connections or partnerships with local childcare facilities which may provide discounts for students. Contact the college as soon as possible about these options as places tend to book up quickly.
Plan, plan, plan
It may sound obvious, but never take the power of routine and planning for granted.
Take a day or two to devise a daily plan/routine. Write it down and hang it somewhere it can’t be missed.
Tips from a single mother in education:
- Plan the timing of morning transportation for both you and your baby, so no learning time is lost
- Prepare lunches and pack school bags the night before
- Study/work on assignments during free periods where possible
- Create money tins labelled ‘Groceries’ ‘Rent’ ‘Childcare’ ‘Electricity’ and ‘Fun times’ – and divide as needed
- Dedicate a whole afternoon to bill-paying and grocery-shopping
- Dedicate another afternoon for undivided bonding time with your baby
- Don’t be afraid to take any babysitter offers once in a while – go to the gym or go out with friends.