I’m in a strange position. I work one day a week as a sessional lecturer, and for the rest of the time I write for TES, organise UKFEchat projects and welcome a variety of other speaking and writing engagements. It’s a great privilege to learn about FE from some wonderful people in a range of different contexts and to share my new knowledge in different formats.
Working from home is brilliant. When my son is at school, I sit down in front of my computer at 8am and finish at 4pm, usually returning to my desk late at night and picking up the slack over the weekends. They are long hours but I get to be with my dogs during the day and there for my son when he finishes school.
Sometimes I don’t even change into grown-up clothes until after lunch if I’m into a piece of work, which means I occasionally answer the door looking like a tribute to The Big Lebowski.
I’ve never worked full-time for one place. I’ve rarely been overwhelmed by the deafening clatter of institutional spats or had to be constrained by a linear hierarchical structure in which I felt unsupported. On the occasions when that has happened, even within the context of a sessional contract, I’ve left. One day’s work a week is replaceable.
There’s a point in the year when I feel more than a little removed from the world of education: the summer holidays
However, there’s a point in the year when I feel more than a little removed from the world of education: the summer holidays. Sometimes I wonder if my independence is worth the insecurity that goes with not having a proper job. In a freelance capacity, if I don’t work, I don’t get paid, and contracts need fulfilling even when I’m fed up with education and want to smash my computer.
I recently asked colleagues on Twitter about holidays. The concept is alien to me. You mean you don’t do any work and you still get paid? That’s friggin’ awesome!
It would seem that entitlements differ hugely across the sector. At the lower end, new teaching staff at some colleges are allowed 33 days’ leave, including eight bank holidays, while teaching staff at other colleges get up to 51 days’ leave, including bank holidays and extra days off at Christmas. That’s more than 10 weeks of holiday. Again, friggin’ awesome!
The statutory minimum for those working five days a week is 28 days per year, including bank holidays. Having checked with my mates in private-sector jobs, it seems that getting the minimum is not at all unusual.
I don’t begrudge my FE pals a day of their holidays (well I do, but only because I want to have my cake and eat it). The job can be unimaginably tough and exhausting. But please understand that your entitlements are often very different from many other professions, and remember that they are indeed friggin’ awesome!
Sarah Simons works in FE colleges in the East Midlands