Spread classified information

24th January 1997 at 00:00
I feel very strongly that colleges offering post-graduate certificate in education (FE) courses should stress to prospective students the limited chance of gaining employment through mainstream channels, such as classified advertisements.

I completed a PGCE (FE) in 1996 and was shocked to discover that the vast majority of my fellow students had gained employment through connections. Despite applying for 189 teaching posts, I have been invited to attend one interview. The other four candidates were all known to the institution, and, I believe, I was invited to attend as a token external candidate. Although I had travelled a long way, I do not think I was ever considered as a serious candidate. I was given no time at all in the interview room, and was not asked any questions related to teaching.

I struggled to gain a place at university following years of study at nightschool. After gaining a 2:1 in English, I struggled to pay debts and return to college at a later date to embark upon a PGCE. I am now 33 and have invested the past eight years in my education. All I have gained is a grim financial and professional future.

I am now alternating between benefit and Pounds 3.50 an hour in unskilled casual work. This does not provide me with the means with which to begin to pay my most recently gained student debt.

As June approaches, newly qualified FE teachers are coming on to the market, but I believe my chance of gaining teaching work has more or less diminished.

Many of my former fellow students had come straight through the system, drifting into FE as they did not know what else to do. Ironically, these were the students who gained work, either through their particular placement colleges, or through somebody they knew in the FE sector.

I am sure that people like myself, who have invested an enormous amount, both financially and emotionally, in a course of study, would benefit from more honesty from institutions before we embark on such courses.

I noticed a stark contrast in the behaviour of lecturers both before and after teaching placement. Before placement, the message was one of extreme optimism and hope. On returning to the institution concerned in May 1996, the mood had changed completely. Those students without teaching hours for the following September, were informed of their "transferable skills" which would be beneficial to other forms of employment (often unskilled).

As I can't believe that staff have somehow suddenly "seen the light" as to the realities of those without connections gaining employment, I would have appreciated this negativism at the start. This would enable individuals to consider training for something more marketable. That is no longer an option, because of the financial implications of studying for the FE course.

I really enjoyed teaching. I still want to teach although I probably never will. As an FE teacher, I am not even eligible for school supply work. Placement colleges do often offer students some hours, of course, but if this is a student's only contact or hope, it is a huge gamble.

It seems that time and again, those students who have been "successful" in finding teaching work, have not been successful at all, simply in the right place at the right time. It may be stating the obvious, but, once again, those who invest the most heavily gain the least.


51 Moorland Road Splott, Cardiff

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