Computer uncovered hidden talents

6th October 1995 at 01:00
When John Dean, a specialist in teaching English to speakers of other languages, applied for work through Education Lecturing Services, he was surprised to be offered life skills lecturing posts instead. The agency's computer, he claims, had identified talents even he had not realised he had.

Mr Dean and his part-time colleagues at Oaklands College were faced with a stark choice when the Hertfordshire college became one of the first to embrace the brave new world of ELS. They could accept redundancy and forfeit any chance to work at Oaklands again, or join the agency.

After signing up, he believes ELS was not geared up to cope with the volume of recruits.

Calls to ELS to sort out the problem of unsuitable courses only brought more problems, with operators phoning back moments afterwards offering more of the same inappropriate work.

Despite repeated enquiries throughout the summer, Mr Dean could not secure firm details of courses he was to teach until the day before term started, three days before his first lesson.

He and colleagues have still not been given written contracts, nor have they received the payment they say they expected on September 28.

Alex Benakis, also an English for speakers of other languages tutor at Oaklands, says: "We were being asked to make plans for the term on the strength of a short phone call."

Mr Benakis has been offered just two hours' work a week at Oaklands after teaching 12 hours a week last year, and claims neither he nor other part-timers he knows has been offered any work at other colleges, despite expressing interest.

Told of Mr Dean's case by The TES, ELS chief executive Geoff Lennox denied the lecturer had been offered a life skills course and claimed he had rejected three assignments proposed by the agency.

He added that short notice of a course was sometimes inevitable, given the lack of notice from colleges of some assignments.

Lecturers had been told they would not receive a contract immediately to avoid the need for alterations while enrolments settled, and had never been promised any payment until October, he said.

Many who complained at ELS terms had apparently forgotten difficulties that had arisen when colleges employed them directly, Mr Lennox added.

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