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Neglect has led to older age profile

Alan Coupe is curriculum manager for maths and science at Norwich College and has worked in FE for 31 years, starting at Woolwich College teaching chemistry. He is a member of Natfhe's national executive.

"The age profile has completely changed," he says. "When I started, colleges had teachers of all ages, but now most are over 40."

The statistics bear him out - more than two-thirds of FE lecturers are now over 45.

"Young people are not coming into FE as a career any more. You used to get all ages, including people in their thirties who left business for FE.

Rewards were much better and people came from schools - now the movement is the other way round.

"Then, there were 15-20 per cent of part-time staff and they provided specialist skills. Now I think part-timers can be exploited. They create a strain on full-timers and there is a diminishing core.

"Hours are longer, of course, and people work across the calendar year.

Teachers have bigger workloads. There is much more bureaucracy. The career structure has suffered - there used to be a definite career progression.

"There is a higher turnover and colleges are more stressful places to work.

New lecturers have to hit the work much more quickly, and they get thrown in the deep end more than we did.

"There are some positive things: increasing participation and the focus on student achievement, for example.

"Many people are still dedicated to what they do. Some of the developments are very positive. But something badly needs to be done about pay, the high turnover and stress."

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