FE and schools pay gap to rise to over £9,000 per year

The FE sector needs more than warm words if it is going to play its vital role in our economic and social recovery, says UCU

Kate Parker

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The pay gap between school teachers and FE lecturers is set to rise to over £9,000 per year.

This morning, education secretary Gavin Williamson announced a pay rise for school teachers of 3.1 per cent. Teachers in England earn a mean average of £40,537 per annum according the Department for Education (DfE) website – this means that schools teachers could receive a rise of up to £1,285, putting their overall salary at £41,822. 

According to the Education and Training Foundation (ETF)'s FE workforce survey published in spring 2020, the average salary of an FE teacher in England is £32,500, £9,322 less than teachers could receive from the 2020-21 academic year. 

University and College Union head of further education Andrew Harden said: “Nobody would begrudge our brilliant school teachers a pay rise. The education secretary talked up the government’s commitment to further education recently, but the pay gap highlights again that further education needs more than warm words if it is going to play its vital role in our economic and social recovery.”


Background: FE workforce data shows college teacher pay down

More: 'We're the experts – and we should be paid as such'

Opinion: 'Are college teachers not worth a pay rise, too?'


This comes just weeks after Mr Williamson spoke about the importance of adequate FE pay in his landmark speech on reform for the sector. He said: “We all know that those amazing and fantastic colleges are built on having fantastic teachers. We need to do more to encourage great people to teach in our great colleges – and to give colleges the ability to reward them properly. Those who can, teach.”

Pay for college staff is set following pay negotiations between the Association of Colleges (AoC), representing member colleges, and the FE unions, University and College Union (UCU), NEU, Unison, GMB and Unite. If an agreement is struck, it is then down to individual colleges to decide whether to implement it.

Following an internal review, which reported back in July 2017, the AoC said it had decided not to scrap the pay negotiations system, which has been criticised by college principals, chief executives and trade unionists alike.

In September 2019, the government announced a 7 per cent rise for 16 to 18 funding, which was intended to fund pay rises in colleges during the 2020-21 academic year. However, the funds were distributed unevenly, and only set out to fund a pay rise for one year.

College leaders have warned of the impact the coronavirus pandemic is likely to have on already tight college finances. In a recent AoC survey, almost half said they would be making redundancies by the autumn term.

Julian Gravatt, deputy chief executive of the Association of Colleges, said that factors such as teacher age and retention must be considered when looking at the gap between school and college pay. 

He said: "School teacher workforce is graduate-only and is younger – the average school teacher age is less than 35. However, the college teacher workforce is more mixed because of the technical specialisms and is older – the average FE teacher age is 45. Research shows that pay generally peaks when people hit their 40s.

"The big issue in schools has been teacher retention – how to keep all those recruits who came in the 2000s and 2010s to teach a growing school population. This is one source of the pressure on government to raise school teacher pay. Despite all the promises, we don’t yet have the same sort of support for FE though our surveys suggest a higher vacancy rate than in schools." 

Labour's shadow apprenticeships and lifelong learning minister, Toby Perkins, said: "Once again the government rhetoric about FE being a priority is betrayed by the actions they take. FE lecturers have had a real-terms pay cut over nine years which wasn’t remotely repaired by the one-off funding increase last year.

"The scale of the pay gap along with the number of colleges already consulting on redundancies will only drive more of the lecturers who will be key to the recovery away from the sector."

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Kate Parker

Kate Parker is a FE reporter.

Find me on Twitter @KateParkerTes

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