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Modernisers earn reward

At last, qualified lecturers at the bottom of the pay ladder will get salaries to match those of schoolteachers - for the first time in 10 years.

But three points up the scale the pound;3,000 chasm re-opens. It is a perverse pay structure that gives parity at the outset then penalises lecturers who gain experience.

The deal is 3.5 per cent backdated to August, 0.5 per cent from April and a leg-up for qualified lecturers to a minimum of point 5 on the college scale. But it is not enough to halt the exodus of more than 1,000 of the best-qualified lecturers a year for better-paid jobs in schools.

Nevertheless, lecturers will accept the package crafted by the joint negotiating committee of employers and unions. They are exhausted and need to keep their powder dry for any future confrontation. And they are pinning their hopes on a new joint working party set up to "modernise" the pay system.

A proper overhaul of FE pay is long overdue. That is why The TES is launching today the FE Focus Fair Pay Campaign - to secure parity with schools within an agreed deadline.

Every education minister since 1997 - and Labour shadow ministers before them - has acknowledged that colleges have modernised more than almost any other sector of society, without due reward. Detailed evidence to support this is on pages 34-35 of The TES this week. But all the ministerial breast-beating has been followed by a string of broken promises.

Education Secretary Charles Clarke has at last found a record pound;1.2 billion increase over three years to start to put things right. He needed to if the radical new programme of partnerships with schools and industry is to work.

But with so many other drains on the sector's resources - escalating pension costs and pound;40 million a year extra on National Insurance - most analysts reckon the cash will go before pay gets a proper look-in. If so, government must foot the bill.

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