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Angst of the old lags strikes thousands low

Experienced lecturers emerge as highly pessimistic, cynical and demotivated in a study of further education self-perceptions.

There are "thousands of unhappy people out there", a seminar at the Scottish Educational Research Association conference in Perth last week heard a senior lecturer at Central Lancashire University in Preston warn.

Annemarie McAllister was in no doubt that her survey of 25 new and 25 experienced staff in a north-west of England college applied equally to Scotland. Like many north of the border, the college had been through considerable restructuring.

Such is the low standing of FE among the general public that four out of 10 lecturers could cite no evidence of wider perceptions of the profession.

There was a danger, Dr McAllister said, of experienced staff influencing the more enthusiastic lecturers new to the college. "If we are not careful, they will make new lecturers as unhappy as they are," she said.

There were difficulties in establishing positive mentors and professional support if most staff suffered from low morale.

Old lags tended to see young lecturers during their initial teaching qualification as idealistic and unrealistic. They said they did not know their subject, were naive, easily influenced and found it difficult to keep discipline because of an over-reliance on popularity.

Younger lecturers were also viewed negatively for accepting pay and conditions more experienced colleagues would reject. In turn, younger staff saw the majority of existing lecturers as lacking in enthusiasm and positive approaches to learning.

Such a negative view is not shared by the Educational Institute of Scotland. "Yes, there are people out there who are not getting professional development and teacher training but people are very confident about working in FE," Marion Healy, the union's further and higher education officer, said.

"Certainly there are challenges across some colleges but the sector is very positive and focusing on the future. The extra money from the Scottish Executive's comprehensive spending review is an indication of the confidence."

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