Peter Leigh has been a member of the support staff in Manchester colleges since 1985. With his BTEC in audio-visual design he took on a technician's job with Manchester Open Learning where he helped to set up exhibitions in the community, mostly to recruit students into YTS (the youth training scheme) to help young people into jobs. He used his skills in photography, graphics and slide presentations but had little contact with students.
In 1989 he was promoted and has worked as an instructor-demonstrator for courses in the national diploma in audio-visual design and the higher national diploma in multimedia design. As well as technical skills, he then needed the communication skills to work in a support role alongside lecturers and students.
He qualified in the City and Guilds teaching basic skills course and also does some part-time lecturing. With cuts in lecturing posts and reductions in formal teaching time, he found himself drawn more and more into working with students.
Leigh, now at The City College, Manchester, feels that he has had a reasonable deal. He was promoted up the pay grades when his job changed and does not feel that he has been asked to do anything beyond his job description, though he puts that down mostly to the high quality of the lecturers he has worked with. He is aware though that people in other areas have had worse deals, and he has concerns about the future.
Job-evaluation schemes have forced his colleagues throughout Manchester colleges to clarify their thinking on how their jobs should be defined. Instructors are often required to work with groups of students when the lecturer is not present, but they want it clearly understood that this is not lecturing.
At instructors' pay grades they do not want to be involved in organising courses, creating teaching materials or in certain kinds of assessment. Where lecturers are laid off, instructors are particularly concerned that they may be expected to take on more and more of their role without sufficient pay, recognition or training.
Although lecturers would continue to manage the teaching and learning, instructors could find themselves taking a bigger share of its delivery.
PAY SCALES WITHOUT ORDER
* Although the unions go through the motions of a national pay agreement, it is not binding on colleges, many of which still pay support staff on the old local authority scales. There are no national grades for specific jobs, so the picture that emerges is one of chaos and cynicism - colleges pay what they think they can get away with.
* The local authority scale starts at pound;8,301 and rises to pound;31,641. A new assimilated scale for FE covers the same range but has four more grades to provide greater differential. Lecturers start on pound;13,305 rising to pound;30,000 for heads of department.
* Cleaners are paid at just above the minimum wage. Typically, administration staff in a college start at pound;12,375 and technicians at pound;14,436, but it is almost impossible to divine a coherent pattern. "A technician in one college may be pound;12,500 and in another on pound;14,500," says Christina McAnea of Unison. "It is almost impossible to negotiate a national rate when we have a lack of information of what is happening at local level."
* To counter this the union has commissioned a pay survey which should be ready by the summer. With the information it supplies, the union is hoping to bring some order to the chaos.