LECTURERS are set to fall further back in the pay stakes as ministers agree the timetable for introducing performance-related pay in sixth-form colleges.
From April, FE lecturers will be increasingly isolated over pay as colleagues in sixth-form colleges benefit from a deal similar to that struck with school teachers last year.
"This just widens the gap and puts lecturers in FE colleges even further behind. But we have opposed performance-related pay because it is divisive and inequitable," said Midge Purcell, of the lecturers union NATFHE.
Whatever the merits of PRP, the chasm opening up between the two types of lecturer is likely to add to concern over the mounting recruitment crisis in FE colleges.
NATFHE is in negotiation over the FE college pay deal. However, there is already the prospect of industrial action over the failure of some colleges to award last year's 3.3 per cent increase.
The employers, the Association of Colleges, attempted to defend the non-payment by some colleges. "What we see here is colleges acting with due and proper regard for their students' provision and staff's security. Many are waiting until the full financial facts are before them," said a spokeswoman.
Recent research confirms a strong connection between pay and college recruitment crisis. Sixty per cent of colleges are struggling to recruit because of low lecturers' pay, says the report by FENTO, the lecturers' training organisation.
Sixth-form college teachers will be offered the chance to apply for a pound;2,000 pay incease when they reach the top of a nine-point scale.
These payments become available from April 1. The money comes from the pound;50 million of extra funding which has already been agreed by the Department for Education and Employment and which will also subsidise a new pay structure for sixth-form college teachers.
Teachers who qualify can then apply for the money and principals will be trained in the assessment system. The first payments to teachers, which will be back-dated, should be made in June or September.
Sue Witham, head of secretariat at the Sixth Form Colleges' Employers' Forum, says the package will ease recruitment problems in the sector. "We may be being optimistic," she said,"but we hope to get the mechanics in place by April 1. Hopefully, the system will be simpler than the one in schools. Then it is a case of training the principals to implement PRP and allowing time for teachers to apply."
"This has come about because we have accepted the fact that there will be no access to this extra money without some sort of a performance element. By September 1, we hope the new salary structure will be in place."
The new arrangements give sixth-form colleges more in common with schools, although she does not visualise them leaving the FE sector.
"In a way, this brings us closer to schools but I doubt the local education authorities would want us back in LEA control," she said.
"We know the Government wants more sixth-form colleges. Some will be in local education authority control and some will be in the Learning and Skills Council control."
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