Saying no to a free-for-all

17th February 1995 at 00:00
As an adult education tutor of many years standing, I read "Labours of Love" (Talkback, January 13) with mounting anger.

When your head of centre asks you to give a free extra lesson, just say no! Why should adult education tutors, with far fewer rights and poorer conditions of service than their full-time colleagues, become martyrs because of shortages in government funding for adult education?

Why should you be dashing to the rescue, reprieving courses and subsidising students out of your own pocket, handing out photocopies for free that have cost you 10p or ringing up absentees and sending them notes at your own expense? It is your centre's responsibility. It cares too about students dropping out of classes.

Like the anonymous tutor, I too love my subject, cannot bear to disappoint enthusiasts, care passionately about my students' learning. I do not, however, give my labour and services for free or let the assumption persist that tutors will give extra lessons without being paid.

As a strictly hourly-paid tutor, enough of that unavoidably happens in the normal course of events - lesson planning, talking to students out of hours and so on. Why should I make the situation worse?

I do not think it petty-minded to ask students for 10p for a photocopy, especially if you explain your position. (Just think of it, you no doubt distribute lots of copies during the lifetime of a course and with, say, 10 students a throw, how much of your hard-earned cash are you parting with?).

I am sure your students would be wholly supportive and it might galvanise them to take up issue with the centre for not allowing such expenses or for shortening courses because of low enrolments.

I have every sympathy with the difficulties of part-time tutors, but whoever wrote last month has only him or herself to blame. We set the limits.

If you do not say no now, you will end up disgruntled and bitter at being abused, possibly leaving the service - and severely out of pocket.

The lot of part-time tutors, the quality and professionalism of the service, will never be improved if tutors allow their goodwill and dedication to be abused. And I'll put my name to that.

Carole Shaw is a tutor in adult and further education tutor in London.

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