More teaching, less student care

13th November 1998 at 00:00
If Baroness Blackstone really wishes confrontation to be a thing of the past, maybe she could help the Association of Colleges to understand why it is that tutors should not be asked to teach 27 hours a week.

Unfortunately everyone continues to talk purely in terms of teaching hours and many people seem to think that is all we do. Our actual working time is ignored.

For every hour of teaching, tutors will need to spend at least half-an-hour in preparation and marking (13.5 hours). Then many classes involve travelling between classrooms. Sometimes this may be as little as moving next door, but at other times this may involve a trip down the stairs, across the road, and up in the lift - with a quick dash to the staffroom to collect another set of books. Let's say an average of 5 minutes per teaching hour (2.25 hours). This brings a tutor's working week to 42.75 hours.

On top of that, we need to talk to students and students want to talk to us - pastoral duties. At least a quarter of an hour a day, or 1.25 hours a week, making a total of 44 hours a week. This is, I believe, a fairly conservative estimate and even a tutor with 22 hours' teaching will total 36 hours of work directly related to teaching.

However, in addition, there are college meetings and working parties we are instructed to attend, training sessions on the use of IT etc, phone calls to return, and contacts to foster. Then, there is our need to keep ourselves up to date with our subject and sometimes even learn a new one. Finally, there is "the paperwork", some of which we have to complete ourselves and some of which involves chasing students.

I can only say that those who advocate 27 hours' teaching should work out which part of our roles we can safely ignore. It is then the AOC's and the Government's responsibility to inform parents, students and employers that, not only will students continue to receive as little as 450 guided learning hours a year (15 hours a week for 30 weeks), but tutors will have even less time for them in future than they have now. And all this is for a starting pay of as little as Pounds 13,000 a year, rising to just Pounds 23,000 after perhaps 12 to l5 years' teaching if you are lucky! If you are unfortunate enough to be on a pay-banded scheme you may never even get that far.

We seem to be even more poorly paid than teachers in schools. No doubt principals will say that the hours a tutor has to teach will depend on their overall workload, and that it is in the interests of good practice to set sensible levels of teaching. However, even responsible principals will find it difficult not to succumb to the pressure of increasing teaching hours if their neighbouring colleges take that route.

Ingrid Thorstad, 28 Torridon Croft, Birmingham.

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