‘The college pay snub demands a reaction’

The government’s refusal to fund a pay rise for college staff shows that it values FE less, Tom Starkey writes

Tom Starkey

The government’s refusal to fund a pay rise for college staff shows they value FE less, Tom Starkey writes

So there we are. No funded pay rise for college teachers and staff, whereas school teachers get a funded rise of between 1.5 and 3.5 per cent.

I can’t say I’m surprised.

I did feel a tiny, anaemic glimmer of hope when there was talk about raising the profile of FE and vocational training.

I had my fingers crossed that this might actually translate to the obvious, route-one approach of throwing us some coin, but, alas, the profile will obviously be raised in other less solid ways than offering a desirable rate of pay.

College teachers 'undervalued'

I mean, who really wants that anyway? What good does money do you in the long run in a high-pressure, target-driven job? Surely you can get by on your passion and the fact that educating the up-and-coming workforce is more sustenance than being able to eat and have a roof and wait, wait…where are you going? What’s that you’re waving in your hand? A resignation? What?

And although I find it irksome, I’m going to try and not place too much emphasis (yet again) on the fact that there are more similarities than differences between teaching in FE and schools, so the lack of funding of one might as well be a banner across Westminster reading: “WE VALUE YOU LESS”.

Yes, yes, I know that funding is not the same and there may be practical implications, but, seriously, what message are we supposed to take here? One sector secures funding from the Department for Education and another doesn’t. It’s a fairly obvious statement.

'What do we in FE do about it?'

I’m also not going to knock secondary in an attempt to raise FE up. The FE sector’s problem isn’t that it’s looked upon unfavourably in relation to other sectors, it’s that it’s hardly looked at AT ALL in relation to other sectors.

There’s no point slating school staff for the meagre reward that they’ve received. We’re all in this together and we all work our arses off.

So the question is: What do we in FE do about it?

Do we just muddle and make do on less and less and less again? In all honesty, I can’t see how long that can go on for. Pay is important.

In a hard job, it becomes even more important. I think this most recent snub by the DfE, in relation to the critical issue of pay and the accompanying assumption that we in FE are once again just going to accept it, may be a galvanising factor for action.

What form that action takes I leave in the hands of those who represent us in the sector. Unions and organisational bodies now need to take up this gauntlet that hasn’t been so much flung to the floor, but unthinkingly discarded out of a moving car window like a used burger box – indicative of the lack of thought given to the sector in general.

I may not be surprised that this has happened, but it would be a wonderful thing if I witnessed a reaction against it that did surprise me.

Tom Starkey teaches English at a college in the North of England

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