Meagre pickings at the FE table

30th December 1994 at 00:00
Joe Bilby discovers time off has become something of a movable feast for staff already stung by change. The Christmas List went up early this year. Fighting my way through the apathy of staff dozing amongst mountains of paper, I read that the last teaching day for Silver Book staff was Friday December 16, while those on the new college contracts had to keep going until Friday, December 23 - although "annual leave could be taken if desired".

Such is life! While vice-chancellors and managers award themselves large salary increases and business trips to Taiwan, Japan and Greater Manchester, the proletariat work on.

Suddenly, other jobs look much more attractive. Teachers in schools may have the national curriculum, 350 kids a week and endless meetings, but at least they are guaranteed 12 weeks holiday a year.

Combine static salary structure with 35 days paid holiday and one wonders what's left for the humble workers in further education. After all, in the real world you might expect to gain promotion but in colleges at present nothing could be further from the truth.

Returning to the Christmas List, I learn that "management spine" staff will have to take the break between December 26 to 28 as annual leave, making them wonder why they ever bothered to aspire to a larger desk, a smaller teaching load and even bigger piles of paper.

But what do middle managers want with holidays? After all, if they don't like it, they can help reduce the surplus FE population.

Behind all this lack of goodwill and lurking around the corners of power is the spectre of a future where full-time lecturers are a rarity, and the rest scramble for teaching hours without any guarantee of a job beyond the end of each month.

We can only hope, a faint possibility, that at least one college principal will be taken up by The Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come and be shown the future before it's too late to change.

Joe Bilby teaches at an FE college in Hampshire.

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