How modern times hit Silver Book contract

14th February 2003 at 00:00
Back in 1992, before incorporation, lecturers came under a national contract known as the Silver Book. After incorporation on April 1 1993, the Government and the Colleges Employers Forum (the predecessor of the Association of Colleges) demanded the end of the Silver Book and "modernised" working practices.

Today there is no national contract, and country-wide agreements are undermined by the refusal of some college managements to implement them.

Here are some of the ways in which working practices and the environment have changed since incorporation:

* The Silver Book broadly specified the hours lecturers should work. Today, with no national contract, many college managements refuse even to discuss setting limits on teaching hours.

* FE colleges get significantly less money than schools per student.

Funding for students taking three A-levels in colleges is pound;1,000 below that in school sixth forms, with colleges receiving an average of pound;2,520 per student compared to pound;3,530 in school sixth forms in 20012.

* Colleges teach much more cheaply. The money they get for each student has dropped by more than 10 per cent since incorporation.

* National pay scales are a thing of the past. Only a third of colleges pay all their staff the rates that their association (the AoC) agrees nationally.

* Contracting out of services is commonplace. More than eight out of 10 colleges contract out some services. Some even contract out learning support including the employment of classroom assistants, and supervision and careers services. Most colleges use commercial agencies like Education Lecturing Services to hire the bulk of their part-time teaching staff.

* A third of colleges hire teachers on term-time only contracts, and nine out of 10 hire support staff in this way.

* FE teaching is the most casualised profession in the country. There are 45,300 full-time lecturers in FE in England, and nearly 100,000 part-time, at least half on temporary hourly-paid contracts. Inspection reports show that excessive use of part-time and agency staff, who have fewer rights and no access to professional development, affects the quality of education .

* Fewer teachers are available to teach more students. There are now four million students, against 2.6 million in 1995.

* The Silver Book specified a maximum of 21 contact hours a week. Today the average lecturer has 24.3 contact hours and some have as many as 35.

* The Silver Book specified a working year of up to 38 weeks. Today the average is 43 weeks.

* In 1992, schoolteachers used to move into FE. Today the movement is nearly all the other way. Two-thirds of those moving into schools cited superior employment packages as the main reason.

* Most lecturers are now qualified to teach. Seven out of 10 teachers are professionally qualified to teach in FE and only 14 per cent of FE teachershave no teaching qualifications.

* Total working hours have increased by about a quarter.

* College lecturers have embraced a stream of government initiatives over the years including reformed A-levels, vocational GCSEs, Modern Apprenticeships and adult basic skills teaching. Developments in both the vocational and academic curriculum have meant extra marking and heavier workloads.

* Colleges spend a third less per student than they did in 1993.

Figures from Natfhe research from a survey for the AoC by ORC International, and from the "Skills Foresight Report 2001" from the Further Education National Training Organisation

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