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Simple steps to narrow pay gap

After years of campaigning for the shocking 13 per cent funding gap between schools and colleges to be closed, we are heartened to read David Hughes say in FE Focus ("Foundations are laid for equal funding," TES, September 9) that a fairer single funding system has been developed through Agenda for Change.

However, as Mr Hughes points out, it will be 2007 before we can realistically expect to see this equitable system in place.

In the meantime, Natfhe, the largest union for college lecturers, agrees with the Association of Colleges that relatively simple steps could and should be taken now to reduce the scandalous gap.

A recent Learning and Skills Development Agency report set out some of the simple steps that would significantly narrow the gap. For example, presently colleges only get funding for extra students they did not expect to recruit if they can demonstrate that they have no possible way of finding that money from their own budgets. Schools, on the other hand, automatically get funding for extra students. By ending this system, the gap would shrink by an estimated 3 per cent. And the report says that, if colleges were given a base rate funding boost equivalent to the pound;38.5 million school sixth forms got in special pensions payments, the gap would be narrowed by another 2.78 per cent.

Together, these two steps would almost halve the 13 per cent gap. On top of that, if colleges were allowed to recover VAT on supplies they buy - as schools do - they could save another pound;75m a year.

With an estimated 10 per cent pay gap between college lecturers and teachers, and 50 per cent of the FE workforce due to retire within a decade, we cannot afford to wait for a completely new funding system to be implemented. We need to take these simple steps now.

Dan Taubman

National official for education

Natfhe

27 Britannia Street

London

WC1X 9JP

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