Don't just shift the crisis;FE Focus

15th January 1999 at 00:00
Anthony Cropper combines an MSc (Oxford) with tenyears' experience in education. He recently rejected a lecturing job offering pound;14,100 - less than the starting salary of a new teacher

AT LAST there appears to be a recognition of the looming crisis in teaching. A new plan to alleviate the teacher shortfall envisages lecturers from FE plugging the gaps that have begun to appear. But who will plug the gaps in FE? And, given current conditions, why would a newly-qualified graduate choose to train for FE?

After working and travelling in Africa last year I returned to find positions in geography were rare, and those I did see in the FE sector offered a maximum salary of around pound;16,500. I was shocked, to say the least, yet I applied for a position in an FE institution in the North-west.

The salary ranged from pound;12,500 to pound;16,500.

I received an offer for interview and advice of the starting salary - pound;14,100. The college based the offer on my qualifications and experience: a BSc (Hons) (Bristol), an MSc (Oxford) an FE postgraduate certificate in education, five years of teachinglecturing experience, and five years of work for examination boards (A-level and GCSE). I have also published material on educational research. Yet, the salary offered was less than the starting point for an newly-qualified teacher in a school.

The consequent discussion with the head of personnel revealed there was no "automatic increase" in salary each year, and that it could remain at pound;14,100 indefinitely.

There is no doubt that working conditions in some FE institutions have deteriorated over the past few years, but has David Blunkett given much thought to how diverse they have become? If qualifications are to be transferable from FE to schools, if standards in all educational institutions are to be improved, and if "well-qualified" graduates are to be encouraged to teachlecture, then should there not be some basic conditions that prevail in all educational institutions?

One can only guess that if or when people are given the choice between the automatic pay rises in schools or fighting each year in FE for an increment; between a starting salary of pound;14,700 as opposed to pound;12,500; between a salary that rises to pound;22,000 rather than pound;16,500, then as soon as it is possible, there will be a flood of lecturers from FE into schools (one also needs to compare holiday entitlement and contact hours).Will a lecturer at the top of the scale in FE move automatically to the top of the scale in a school?

Paul Mackney, NATFHE's leader, says: "We want professional qualifications, recognised in schools and higher education." This is true; but we also want professional rates of pay. I declined the offer for interview in the college and am thinking of retraining.

The choice for a newly-qualified graduate wishing to teach is there; train for FE or take qualified teacher status? The gulf between the two sectors is wide, and is widening (although sixth-form colleges are equal to schools in many respects).

If lecturers leave FE to plug the gaps in schools, then from where will the FE institutions "draft in" their shortages? Changing the rules may alleviate some of the current recruitment crisis in schools, but it may deepen another in FE.

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