From education to employment

AoC pay recommendation 2023/24


After a constructive and positive formal National Joint Forum meeting with the college unions today, AoC is keen to share the recommendation it made in response to the claim from the unions. This will allow many colleges to move forward rapidly on improving pay for staff who are facing pressures from the cost of living crisis.

In July 2023, thanks to months of intense lobbying on pay and amid the significant increase cost-of-living, the government announced a welcome boost in funding for further education after more than a decade of cuts. This new funding allowed for a strong offer to be made by AoC in response to the union claim.

The headline is that AoC recommends that colleges should use all of their share of the £200 million pounds of additional government funding to address staff recruitment and retention challenges. 

AoC is encouraging colleges to be open and transparent about the total additional funding their individual institution has received and to show how it is being used to address the pay issues they face. 

The recommendation advises that colleges should aim to make an award of 6.5% where their previously budgeted pay award, their financial circumstances and the new allocation of funding allows them to do so. AoC recognises the difficult position some colleges with smaller 16-18 cohorts find themselves in because the funding methodologies used to distribute additional allocations will not allow them to achieve such a pay recommendation.

AoC has agreed to work with the unions to explore new national pay bargaining arrangements. AoC invited the unions to join in campaigning with colleges, and join lobbying the government and other political parties for further investment ahead of the general election, rather than balloting for industrial action. 

David Hughes, chief executive of the Association of Colleges, said: 

“We made the difficult decision to delay making a pay recommendation to the sector in April this year, because we didn’t want to let the government off the hook with funding. 

“We were pleased that in response to our lobbying for investment in further education, the government announced a funding boost in July this year. I’m grateful to the Secretary of State for Education for fighting for extra funding for colleges alongside schools for the first time. 

“We have long said that the gap between the school and FE sectors on teacher pay is unacceptable, and it is an enormous step forwards that the government has finally accepted their responsibility as funders to put that right. My hope is that this funding will be only the first step towards closing the gap over the coming years, but I know that we will need to campaign hard to achieve that. That’s why we are asking the unions to campaign with us nationally, rather than taking action locally. We have shown this works.

“Our NJF meeting today seemed to show strong alignment between college employers and the union members and I hope that we can reach a final agreement very soon.”

Gerry McDonald, chief executive of New City College and chair of the AoC’s Employment Policy Group, said: 

“College leaders do not want pay in colleges to slip even further behind schools and industry roles, which is why we would like to see as many colleges as possible matching the teachers’ 6.5% pay award for their staff. 

“However, it is absolutely clear that a number of colleges will not be able to achieve 6.5% because the new funding is simply and transparently insufficient. 

“By using the 16-18 budget to distribute funds and linking it to high-cost subjects, the additional funding available for college pay as a proportion of overall college turnover varies enormously between colleges. This would make a simple single pay award recommendation difficult to achieve for a large number of colleges. 

“It is time for the unions to withdraw their ballots for industrial action, and instead work with us to continue to lobby government and the other political parties ahead of the general election. Only in that way will we turn the dial on pay to where it should be.”

Response from UCU

Today at the National Joint Forum meeting the Association of Colleges (AoC) made a conditional recommendation on pay of 6.5%.

UCU’s view is that the pay recommendation mirrors that for schoolteachers, but it isn’t binding on all colleges, and so needs to be understood in this context. Alongside the other FE unions UCU has been pressing the AoC to agree a new national bargaining framework for the sector, so the outcomes of national pay talks are implemented by all colleges and stop being non-binding recommendations. College staff need certainty on pay and so we urge the AoC to agree urgently the timeframe of meetings to discuss a new national bargaining and funding settlement for the sector.

College staff work an average of two days extra every week for no additional pay, and salaries have fallen 35% behind inflation over the past twelve years.  While the gap between school teachers and pay of Further Education staff remains £9,000.

UCU general secretary Jo Grady said:

‘Our analysis shows the money is there for college bosses to raise pay and treat staff fairly.

‘The money has now arrived to pay our members fairly and a conditional recommendation of 6.5% on pay has been made.

Colleges leaders need to start respecting staff properly and give them the decent salaries and manageable workloads they deserve.’ 

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