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When FE was move for better

Ministers say better pay must go hand-in-hand with modernisation. Such modernisation is already part of the culture in colleges, says Jan Portillo, who starts a new job this week as director of the school of teaching and learning at Gateshead College.

For five years, she has been in charge of the college's curriculum and learning services. She started in FE in 1990 as a lecturer in English and education. She is an Office for Standards in Education inspector and a consultant for the Learning and Skills Development Agency.

"I came to FE after teaching in a comprehensive school and felt that I had improved my quality of life. I don't think someone making the same move would feel that today," she says.

"In 1990 there was more flexibility in working conditions and what people did. You didn't have the frameworks, analysis of data and the focus on standards. You didn't analyse your retention and achievement rates.

"There was more time to reflect on what you were doing. We are coming back to that now but there has been a period between. We are now getting back to the focus on teaching and learning.

"Jobs like the one I'm just leaving did not exist then. We had heads of department for curriculum areas.

"These days funding concentrates everyone's mind, because high-quality information is needed for funding purposes.

"Modernisation has been delivered well and relatively quickly by many colleges. When I started managers did not have that focus on the business.

"We are becoming more like a business organisation with a vision, a business plan and targets, monitoring progress systematically. There's an emphasis on branding and marketing.

"Modernisation has benefited many people. But we do need a renewed focus on teaching and learning, and targeted resources."

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