Seven-in-ten further education (FE) staff working in FE Colleges in England have considered leaving the sector, as workloads rise and many suffer from stress, according to a poll by the National Education Union (NEU).

Responding to a poll of FE staff, a lecturer in the North West said: “I burst into tears over making a mistake. I'm ridiculously overworked with the new specifications and subjects new to me that I'm teaching this year.”

And a departmental manager from the North East said they had considered leaving the FE sector because they: “can't cope with the workload, and hate seeing my team suffer from the effects of their ridiculous workloads.”

Eighty per cent of respondents said their workload has increased over the last 12 months. Sixty-two per cent said this increase was because there are fewer staff in their workplace, 35% said they had to teach more hours, 34% had new subject areas to teach and 31% had more classes to teach.

Half (49.32%) work over seven hours more than they are contracted to each week – the equivalent of an extra day a week - with 88% saying they have to work extra hours because their workload demands it, and 37% saying it is expected of them.

A lecturer from the South East said: “I work until 12pm most evenings and work at least half a day on Saturday and Sunday.”

A lecturer from the Midlands said: “I have taken on areas of teaching that I have not worked in before. This is a development opportunity for me but also a huge amount of unpaid work.”

In these circumstances, it is not surprising that 40% (39.55%) have discussed stress with a health professional while working in the FE sector, or that 12.4% have been signed off with stress. A further 16.44% believe they are suffering with stress, but haven’t discussed it with a health professional.

A lecturer from the North East said they suffer: “too much stress with no appreciation, even though I really enjoy teaching. But the paperwork has killed the enjoyment. I’d like to spend more time with students to support them and see them progress. The quality in education has decreased and it's treated as a business now as more students passing generates more money.”

FE staff said the things that most worried them about working in the sector were concerns about their job security (25.67%), working conditions (24.06%) and pay (15.31%).

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dr Mary Bousted 100x100 edited 1Dr Mary Bousted, joint general secretary of the National Education Union, said: “It is not surprising that so many FE staff have considered leaving – they have faced huge turmoil in the sector with the area reviews and are suffering from chronic overwork and under-pay. For too long FE colleges have been the poor relatives in education, paid little attention by Government and starved of funding. This cannot continue. The Government needs to recognise the vital role FE colleges play in developing a skilled workforce, educating 62% of 16-18 year olds and adults who are upskilling and reskilling.

“The National Education Union is running an EFFECTIVE EDUCATION project to help FE staff achieve sustainable workloads and to campaign for better funding for the FE sector. This aims to raise awareness of the important work FE colleges have in developing a skilled workforce for the post-Brexit economy.”

AOC Logo 100A spokesperson from the Association of Colleges (AoC) commented on the findings from the poll: 

“Colleges have some of the most talented and dedicated staff, transforming lives across the UK every day. We need to do all that we can to recognise, respect and reward them. That is of course about more than pay,  but it is not acceptable that teachers in schools are earning on average £37k compared to only £30k in colleges. The Association of Colleges will continue to pressure government until the inadequate funding levels for Further Education are addressed so that we can retain and recruit the very best staff.”

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