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Flexibility and lost Fridays

Part-time contracts are leading to new working habits and the weekly pattern is no longer nine to five, five days a week. It's much more flexible, or is it?

The new pattern has yet to hit schools, but colleges are increasingly employing staff on a temporary basis, often encouraging them to mix several different "jobs". This has led to all sorts of difficulties for those managing the timetable including the "I Don't Work Fridays" syndrome. Ask any commuter and they'll tell you that there's far less traffic on Friday than on any weekday. Conversely, on Tuesdays it's well nigh impossible to find a college parking space.

Of course, if you give freedom of choice, you have to learn to live with the nightmare you've created. I can never find enough staff to cover Friday classes, so I end up working and watching everyone else leave for a long weekend.

Maybe I have only myself to blame. I tend to believe someone when they say it was contractually agreed that they "didn't work Fridays" and that they "couldn't possibly" change their arrangements.

Meanwhile, if I'm sick, classes are cancelled and chaos ensues. We all know that Friday students have to be enticed in with a rich menu of interactive tasks and videos packaged together into an all-singing, all-dancing afternoon interspersed with cigarette breaks.

But perhaps all is not lost - I'm working on a plan to finish this problem once and for all. Entitled "The Four-Day College", it will involve a studentless Friday with all classes jammed between Monday and Thursday. Then the only problem will be "I don't like Thursdays!".

Joe Bilby teaches in an FE College in Hampshire.

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