An instructive look at FE;Letter

12th June 1998 at 01:00
The National Association of Head Teachers is interested in the idea of a 37.5 hour week for teachers (TES, May 29), with salaries for some teachers to rise to pound;40,000.

The example of further education where contracts - described by their proponents as professional and flexible - have been introduced in recent years, should be instructive. A longer working week, a heavier teaching load, and shorter holidays, compounded by reductions in course hours for students, have led to substantial efficiency gains - if we equate efficiency with cheapness, and take warmth from the dull embers of Thatcherite social and economic values which still smoulder in Downing Street.

Other costs, however, have been substantial. A quarter of lecturing jobs have gone (with heavy use of premature retirement); 33 per cent more students are now in colleges compared with a few years ago; the use of part-time and casual staff has increased to 45 per cent.

But are remaining lecturers paid pound;40,000 a year? A glance at the FE appointments pages will reveal that this is not the case. Although there is no uniform picture for teachers' salaries, since there is effectively no national agreement on wages and conditions, trends can be seen.

Some colleges have not given their lecturers any pay increase for the past year or so, while others have introduced new and lower maxima for certain posts. Instructors have replaced lecturers, but on reduced salaries. Part-time and short-term contracts are flourishing. The terms "professional" and "flexible" begin to acquire the unpleasant but familiar taste of concepts characterised by economic neo-liberalism rather than the positive need to build successful education and training.

Michael Johnson

22 Holyoake Avenue Woking, Surrey

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