ALMOST since incorporation the further education colleges have been dogged by deficits. These impeded competition when that was the order of the day. They have been equally demoralising since ministers changed tune and asked colleges to collaborate in the search for efficiency and a wider catch- ment of students. Now light appears at the end of the tunnel (FE Focus, page 34).
Operating deficit across the sector is set to go down from 5.2 per cent of total income two years ago to 0.3 per cent in 2002u03.
The funding council has been able to help colleges on the back of the extra voted by central government, including another tranche following the public spending announce- ment last September. So far so good, and principals and their boards are entitled to breathe a sigh of relief. But immedi- ately they have to draw breath in again sharply. Pay is by far the largest spending item.
Lecturers now see the prosect of teachers receiving an above-inflation award over three years.
There is no such prospect for college staff, and as Norman Williamson hints in his FE Focus column, that is likely to exacerbate difficult industrial relations u not least for Mr Williamson in his own troubled college, Coatbridge.
When schools and colleges share aspects of a common curriculum and assessment, lecturers expect to match school salaries. The knock-on effects of a post-McCrone package are not confined to FE. University staff have notoriously lagged behind. Lecturers whose qualifications, nowadays almost always at demanding postgraduate level, are higher than the general rule in schools will look not with envy but in anger at teachers of a similar age earning thousands of pounds more than they do. Between them Chancellor Gor- don Brown and Angus MacKay, his Executive opposite num- ber, face more calls on the public purse.