'The exploitation of full-time teachers is rife in FE'

As the number of casual staff hired in colleges rises, so does the workload of full-time teachers, warns this lecturer
3rd November 2020, 11:43am


'The exploitation of full-time teachers is rife in FE'

Teacher Workload: Exploitation Of Full-time Fe Teachers Is Rife, Warns This Lecturer

Sadly, the days of rewarding full-time contracts in the further education sector are a thing of the past. 

Remember when lecturers held national contracts that specified a maximum of 21 contact hours a week and a working year of up to 38 weeks? Today it is common for FE lecturers to have 25-plus contact hours a week, and some have more than 30. It's odd to think that I once coveted a full-time role in the sector - these days I am glad when my three-day weekly stint is up. 

In the college where I work, the ratio of full-time to part-time sessional staff is around 10:1. The college resists hiring full-time employees wherever possible to avoid extra pension contributions and presumably to promote efficiency.

More by Rufus Reich:  Students need specialists, not generalists

Coronavirus: Keeping colleges open is 'gambling with the health of the nation'

OpinionAs TAs, we were given a script for when Ofsted came

It's ironic but not surprising that in emergency situations such as meeting deadlines for important paperwork or emergency marking, it is the full-time staff members who management calls upon - often to fill in for part-time staff whose limited contracts mean they are not available to assist. 

There's no doubt about it: the exploitation of full-time teachers is rife. 

The workload burden on full-time FE staff

Key to obtaining as much from full-time staff as possible is a contract that includes the term "general duties". These are tasks that are additional to teaching duties and that are not limited or specifically defined by the contract. On this basis, any assigned chore can be labelled as a "general duty" and the lecturer cannot refuse without risking a charge of professional misconduct. And since the contract requires it, no overtime compensation is payable. However, where the carrot of time back for extra work is used by managers, getting them to honour promises for time off in lieu can be met by blank refusal or the request simply ignored.

There are stories of lecturers being reduced to tears after being reprimanded by their line manager for not completing tasks on time and being accused of incompetence when, in fact, they were given insufficient hours to do it. 

One lecturer told me that he had received an email at 10am telling him to complete a stack of marking by midnight that same day. The problem was that his schedule was already full: teaching from 9am to 12pm and then giving tutorials from 1pm to 4pm. And, of course, time was also "lost" from the day as a result of driving home and eating an evening meal. The only way he was able to meet the deadline was to lower the quality of his work. This meant basing his students' grades on previously recorded average marks and using commonly made errors to base generic feedback upon. Clearly, in this situation nobody wins. But for the teacher, it at least avoided further bullying emails and being threatened with gross professional misconduct.  

General duties can also include attending end-of-year graduation ceremonies. These commonly take up most of a Saturday and require that lecturers pay their own expenses: hiring gowns, travel and parking costs, and buying drinks and meals. The college insists staff should view attending students' graduation ceremonies as a privilege of their role. But it is a "privilege" that full-timers rather than part-time staff are required to enjoy because there are greater expectations and fewer citable reasons for refusing their employer's request.

Another full-time lecturer I spoke to estimated that despite her 36-hour-a-week contract, she probably works 65 hours. In real terms, this places her in the minimum wage category. She said she felt like a one-litre pot that her managers were trying to tip 10 litres into - there was simply no limit to how many "general duties" she felt her managers might ask her to perform. 

The rift between teachers and managers

Of course, bosses are not unaware of the pressures placed on staff, particularly full-time members. I heard one remark: "Everyone knows a lecturer works twice the hours that they are contracted for. That is the reason why I went into management - I didn't want to work as a teacher."

Such a sentiment does little to heal the rift between teachers and managers and appears only to justify the exploitation of teachers. 

Unsurprisingly, a number of the full-time lecturers in my college are looking for new jobs. These are people whose colleges should be valuing them rather than hounding them out of their profession.

Rufus Reich is a pseudonym. The writer is a FE lecturer in England

You’ve reached your limit of free articles this month

Register for free to read more

You can read two more articles on Tes for free this month if you register using the button below.

Alternatively, you can subscribe for just £1 per month for the next three months and get:

  • Unlimited access to all Tes magazine content
  • Exclusive subscriber-only articles 
  • Email newsletters

Already registered? Log in

You’ve reached your limit of free articles this month

Subscribe to read more

You can subscribe for just £1 per month for the next three months and get:

  • Unlimited access to all Tes magazine content
  • Exclusive subscriber-only articles 
  • Email newsletters