Earlier this month, I had the pleasure of meeting a group of university undergraduates. The purpose was that, as German students, they would be able to engage with a native speaker, test their interviewing skills and find out how I use my learned language (English) in my day-to-day life.
They were enthusiastic to hear about how I became involved in journalism. They wanted to hear about the stories that made a difference and the ones I would have approached differently. And then we got onto the difficult subject of starting salaries. They concluded, after an uncomfortable silence, that one should not make a career choice solely on the basis of pay.
It got me thinking. What does attract people to the career choice they make, and how much of a factor in that decision is pay? The most recent available figures show FE teaching staff in England earn significantly less than school teachers, for example. I am sure it is a factor when people consider a career in FE – Tes has reported previously on the recruitment issues colleges are facing.
And for those already working in the sector, feeling like one’s pay is not fair will inevitable erode morale in a sector that is already struggling with constant reform. Only this week, schools minister Nick Gibb, when asked about the high proportion of learners who never obtain that holy grail of a “good pass” in their GCSE English and maths, told the BBC “it will take time for further education colleges to adapt their teaching to ensure more young people get a good pass”.
The onus on making the policy work is on colleges, but there is no indication that FE will get the extra funding that would allow principals or CEOs to raise staff pay accordingly. The sector needs to be funded in a way that allows for lecturers in England to earn a wage that allows for pride in their work and the sector.
Constantly asking college staff to do more will become increasingly untenable if we are simultaneously asking them to shoulder cuts, too.