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Part-timer lives job to the full

Lecturer Gill Britten puts in 50 hours a week because she wants to. Joe Clancy reports

Perhaps basic skills lecturer Gill Britten should consider handing back the UK New Horizons award she won for being an exceptional part-time teacher in further education. Because to call her part-time is a misnomer. She regularly puts in a 50-hour week.

The award was made by supply agency Protocol Professional to recognise the talents of the thousands of part-time lecturers who have played an increasingly important role in colleges.

"I am part-time on paper," she said. "Full-time in reality."

Perhaps it is the fact that she puts in so many unpaid hours in job as family learning co-ordinator at Yale college in Wrexham that makes her a worthy winner of the award. She is paid for 22 hours a week, which is actual contact teaching time. There is no payment for preparation, marking and the travelling between the communities she serves. Her job, she explained, is a labour of love. "It is my choice to work the hours I do because I enjoy my job so much. My job is my hobby and my hobby is my job."

The 58-year-old mother-of-two has worked in FE for just three years, having previously worked in special needs support in a local junior school, following an earlier career as a paediatric nurse. But she was attracted to teaching adults while studying for a masters degree in literacy at Sheffield university. "One of the modules for my MEd involved adults," she explained. "I knew nothing about teaching adults but I needed to know something for my qualification. I approached Yale college and asked if I could do voluntary work, for which I first had to receive training, and I just got hooked on it."

Her job involves working with parents of children who have difficulties with literacy and numeracy. Typically, she will spend two hours working with parents, advising them how to help their children, two hours with the children and two hours in a joint session with children and parents together, providing all with four-hours-a-week basic skills tuition. She is also working on a research project helping parents to cope with children who have speech and language impairments. "This leads to behaviour difficulties which make them difficult to cope with at home," she said. "We provide parents with strategies to help them cope with the difficulties their children are having."

Her work on speech and language impairment, which affects more than one million children and young adults in the UK, is beginning to receive national acknowledgement. She has been invited to give presentations on her research at conferences throughout the UK, and even gave one in front of the Welsh education minister Jane Davidson.

She added: "I am lucky to have the full support of my line managers. They never say no to me, no matter what wacky ideas I come up with. We are all only as good as our line managers and the training we get."

Ms Britten was selected from more than 200 part-time lecturers proposed by more than 100 colleges for the award, for which FE Focus editor Ian Nash was on the judging panel.

Mark Ellis, sales and marketing director for Protocol Professional, which launched the award this year, said Ms Britten exemplifies the awards'

subtext, which is "part-time teaching - full-time dedication". He said:

"Quite often we hear the comment that part-time teachers are not committed, but we don't agree.

"People have very positive reasons why they want to work part-time. They do it because it's a vocation and they love it. Colleges are very dependent on them."

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