There is, however, no excuse for playing into the hands of parsimonious and cash-strapped managers looking for jobs to be done on the cheap. If employers can get a job done for nothing, why should they pay for it? This is the real danger behind the otherwise laudable motives of thousands of part-time staff who are working considerably longer hours than they are paid for (page 3).
Part-time staff are the unsung heroes of further education. They have been, increasingly so, since incorporation in 1993 and the relentless casualisation of college employment. This flexibility has bought dividends to the colleges, students and staff concerned. As Protocol Professional, the biggest FE part-time recruitment agency points out, people from industry find a new part-time outlet for their talents and students appreciate the direct contact with the workplace.
The problems come when good lecturers dearly want a full-time job but none is available. Whether out of dedication or a desire to impress senior staff, in the hope of a job, many of these people are doing valuable extra work without proper reward. No one knows the full extent of this free ride for colleges, but many part-time lecturers are putting in two or three times the hours they are paid for. The lecturers' union Natfhe has therefore brought the issue of employment strategies to the fore in its submission to the Foster review of FE.
This is not just pre-conference tub-thumping by a trade union. Natfhe has strong support in comments from the Office for Standards in Education. The inspectors recently pointed out in their report, Why Colleges Fail, that poor part-time employment practices damage quality. Corners are cut and standards fall when colleges recruit staff just to teach a few hours, then expect them to do lesson preparation and marking in unpaid time.
There is a desperate need for a long hard look at such practices. This is as urgent as the need to ensure that all staff are professionally qualified to teach. It would be a pity to lose the flexibility that some of the new working patterns have brought. However, this should not be at the expense of a fair day's work for a fair day's pay.