Why our pay fails to add up

10th August 2001 at 01:00
YOUR correspondent in FE Focus (July 27) makes an error - that of failing to read the text with care - in attributing to the Association of Colleges ignorance about the levels of teachers' and lecturers' pay.

The statement made by the association was very precise: "There is now no significant difference in the average levels of pay for lecturers and school teachers." A glance at the Department for Education and Skills' statistics of education: teachers, England and Wales 2000 edition will show that at March 31, 1999, the average salary of full-time FE lecturers was pound;24,940, while full-time teachers in maintained schools earned pound;24,430. There can be little doubt that the differential has reduced since then.

That is in marked contrast to the position in 1993, when the average lecturer's salary was about 7 per cent above that of the average school teacher. But that shift is not a consequence of any dramatic change in the basic scales - the maximum salaries on the nationally-recommended scales (at pound;24,907 and pound;23,958 respectively, for the year just coming to a close) bear much the same relationship now as eight years ago. Rather, it is the inability of some colleges to match national pay recommendations because of funding constraints which has led to the decline.

Your second correspondent, Christopher Letza, is correct in suggesting that the average includes the pay of FE managers - but the average figure for teachers also includes that of managers.

Of course there are many whose earnings are below the average - that is an essential mathematical fact. Nor is it surprising that some posts in schools are paid more than similar jobs in colleges. As long as both schools and colleges have the freedom to determine their own pay and grading structures such variations are bound to exist.

None of this detracts, however, from the central message of the association's briefing: "The AOC and its colleges remain determined to improve the pay of their lecturers." But realisation of that objective requires a better funding regime to ease the squeeze on core funding. This would free up colleges' ability to match the structural reforms which have opened up new opportunities in schools, and to restore competitiveness with the private sector.

To illustrate, with threshold assessment, many schoolteachers can now progress to a maximum salary of pound;31,128 without assuming managerial responsibilities, and those who become advanced skills teachers can reach pound;44,571. In addition, many teachers will receive allowances for working with special needs pupils, or for recruitment or retention.

In contrast, the recommended package for the Teachers' Pay Initiative will allow a small proportion of lecturers in general FE colleges to progress to a maximum of around pound;30,000. Likewise, national pay data shows that the public sector lost ground to the private sector over the 1990s, that education has lost more than other public services, and that within education FE has lost ground compared to other sectors. The result is that private-sector pay has risen about 20 per cent above FE rates since 1993, with increasing difficulty for colleges to recruit the high-quality staff they need in order to compete.

The association believes that these are the real issues which have now to be tackled, and it has every intention of pursuing them with vigour.

John Brennan


Further Education Development

Association of Colleges

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