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With FE the focus of policy, data and evidence matter

The Staff Individualised Record (SIR) Service is the ‘bricks and mortar’ of the sector’s policy, writes Charlynne Pullen

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The Staff Individualised Record (SIR) Service is the ‘bricks and mortar’ of the sector’s policy, writes Charlynne Pullen

The FE sector is at the heart of the government’s new industrial strategy, the whole social mobility debate, and the accelerated skills challenges posed by Brexit. This month alone we have seen the skills minister call on employers to join new T-level panels, a review of post-18 education and funding tertiary education and a renewed spotlight on the governance of the sector’s institutions.

While opinions always play an essential part in any policies, discussion and debates, evidence and facts remain the bricks and mortar. For FE policymaking, this is why the annual Staff Individualised Record (SIR) service, now in its 25th year, is so important.

Run by the Education and Training Foundation (ETF) for the past five years, it is the most comprehensive and independent source of data on the latest trends in demographics, staffing numbers and pay across all provider types in the FE and training sector. This year, it is also part of the ETF’s spring series of research, which will be followed by the Initial Teacher Education data report and the Training Needs Analysis in April.

The SIR Workforce Data report itself plays a key role for policymakers and opinion-formers but also acts as a key data source for colleges, independent training providers and adult community learning providers.

It provides them with a bespoke benchmarking tool that can give a fresh perspective on their workforce data and how their operation compares with other similar providers.

The tool provides the following uses:

  • Benchmarking vital management data including pay, staff qualifications, age, gender, ethnicity.
  • Carrying out an effective quality check on HR data.
  • Understanding the workforce profile to inform recruitment policy and advertising.

The window for submitting 2017-18 workforce data opens on 1 August this year and will help to continue to create an evidence base for government and sector body policymaking.

Colleges that submit data to the SIR service can also now benefit from a new data sharing agreement between the Association of Colleges (AoC), the ETF and the University and College Union (UCU). The aim of the agreement is to collect a single dataset of reliable and robust FE workforce data through SIR Data Insights, which the ETF will then share with AoC and UCU.

As part of this annual research, we provide an overall summary of the data, which this year was gathered from 198 providers (compared to 175 last year) who provided returns on 72,104 staff contracts. As well as FE, sixth form and specialist colleges, the dataset comprises local authorities, independent training providers and the third sector.

For the first time, the annual workforce data report captures the gender pay gap across all staff and providers, and includes a specific analysis of learning support staff, both of which are vital to understanding, improving and championing the sector’s teaching and training profession.

Key findings

  • 79 per cent of learning support staff work part-time compared to 49 per cent of all staff. However, the percentage of learning support staff working full-time has increased from 16.6 per cent to 20.5 per cent.
  • The gender pay gap across all staff and providers is in favour of men by 9.7 per cent. As this is an aggregate gap, it does not take into account the job roles and qualifications of individual members of staff. For example, the SIR report in 2014-15 found that most of the difference in pay between genders – particularly for teaching staff – was related to differences in subjects taught, reflecting wider society.
  • Median pay across all staff and providers has increased slightly from £27,500 to £28,500 over the past five years. For colleges, the change in median pay has been similar – from £27,500 to £28,700.
  • Most occupations have seen a decline in staff numbers during 2016-17. Only apprentice and learner-facing technical staff numbers have risen (15 per cent and 1 per cent respectively). Senior managers have seen the largest decline (10 per cent).

While the SIR forms the bricks and mortar for decision making, we rely heavily on all institutions to provide this information. It is a vital part of the work we do as the national workforce development body for the FE and training sector – and allows us to publish a wealth of information to help both institutions and policymakers, and build the foundations for a world-class technical and vocational education system.

Charlynne Pullen is head of data and evaluation at the Education and Training Foundation

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