Exclusive: FE commissioner backs pay rise for college staff

No Department for Education funding for a pay rise for college staff is a 'worry', says FE commissioner Richard Atkins

Stephen Exley

Hadlow College 'the most serious case I've seen' says FE commissioner

The Department for Education's failure to fund a pay rise for college staff could put the financial stability of colleges at risk, FE commissioner Richard Atkins has warned.

It was announced in July that teachers in schools would be in line for a pay rise from September, part-funded by the government. Those on the main pay scale would get 3.5 per cent, while those on the upper ranges would receive 2 per cent and leaders would get 1.5 per cent.

But last month, the department confirmed that it would not stump up extra cash to fund a pay rise for FE college teachers and staff.  This news comes despite the average teacher pay in colleges being £7,000 less than the equivalent rate in schools.

'Very concerning'

In an exclusive interview with Tes, FE commissioner Richard Atkins has given his backing to calls for the DfE to fund a pay rise for college staff.

Mr Atkins said he had come across one extreme example of a college that had offered no annual pay rise at all for 10 years. “I’m amazed how long [the pay freeze has lasted] – the level by which some colleges’ staff pay has fallen behind [schools] is quite remarkable," he said. "It is very concerning in terms of recruiting staff, particularly in shortage areas.”

He added: “There will be real pressure, and I would support it, that colleges should have a similar, or the same, solution as schools. If schools get help meeting that, then the same has to go to colleges. I would worry about the stability of a number of colleges if they had to absorb all this.”

'Unfair' funding

In January, Mr Atkins told the Commons Education Select Committee that funding levels for FE were “unfair”

On Wednesday, Tes revealed that sixth-form colleges would not receive any additional Department for Education funding to give their teaching staff the same pay-rise rates as school teachers.

FE commissioner Richard Atkins

This is an edited version of an article in the 21 September edition of Tes. To subscribe, click here. To download the digital edition, Android users can click here and iOS users can click hereTes magazine is available at all good newsagents

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Stephen Exley

Stephen Exley

Stephen Exley is a freelance writer, director of external affairs at Villiers Park Educational Trust and former FE editor at Tes.

Find me on Twitter @stephenexley

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