From education to employment

FE News Takes a Look at the Week that Was in FE

The week after Easter. The weather remains constant, but another holiday high – jacked by Hallmark has passed us by. The only thing that remains to remind us is the next bank statement and the spare tyre that now rests above our belts.

People across the country will be either gorging themselves on left ““ over chocolate bunnies in a bid to prove that diabetes is something that happens to other people, or else will be surreptitiously disposing of unwanted Cadbury products and smacking their lips in phantom enjoyment. At a time when “green issues” seem to be gaining the public attention they have merited for thirty years, the sheer quantity of waste in food and in packaging boggles the mind.


One thing that must be observed before proceeding is the slightly farcical situation of David Cameron MP and his icy visit. It appears that Mr. Cameron is an ardent advocate of green policies following his flight over Greenland sans snow. The curious aspect is that Mr. Cameron needed to fly all that way to notice this. It is easy to understand the importance of first ““ hand awareness; but as the pollution from aviation is a large part of the damage done to the environment, it raises questions as to why the trip was necessary. Unless, of course, Mr. Cameron paid the full environmental cost of the flight”¦

Moving on from Mr. Cameron’s flight of environmental knowledge, another aspect of waste is a more ephemeral one. Perhaps insubstantial would be a more apt description. When the internet was first launched it was hailed as the next stage of the sharing of human knowledge, a tool for growth in understanding. It was hoped that a form of “butterfly effect” in education and knowledge could come to pass; that someone would think of a small idea on basket weaving in Croydon, and it could be transferred instantly to someone else scratching their head in Caracas. The opportunity that lay before the world was quite simply staggering.

This is not a rant against the pornography industry that seem to account for about half of the internet use. It is, however, a worrying indictment of a resource that should be tailor made for the FE sector’s drive towards greater inclusion and providing access for disadvantaged learners that so much abuse of the internet exists. Security problems make it difficult, for instance, for an FE College to reliably place all records, exams and course texts online. The provision of materials online would cut costs (and, of course, be a useful means of slimming down the use of paper, consequently a green initiative). It would also build the reputation of the internet as a tool for change and growth, for the sharing of knowledge rather than the sharing of bank sort codes and banned websites.


At FE News, an article was published on Friday which highlighted the salaries being awarded to FE College Principals. It demonstrated that FE Colleges are paying their principals handsomely in many cases, according to the College Accounts published by the Learning and Skills Council (LSC). The reporter (Vijay Pattni) has been widely praised for his hard work and diligence, and for his clear unbiased presentation of the facts that should prove of interest to many within FE.

The interesting fact here stems from a number of increases in salary within certain colleges, especially at a time when the Association of Colleges (AoC) has offered FE College lecturers a 1.5 % pay increase that falls below the rate of inflation and below that offered to school teachers. One college, according to the figures from the College Accounts gathered by the LSC in 2003 / 04 and 2004 / 05, showed their Principal’s pay rise by 64 %; another, by a whopping 84 %. Bizarrely, another college shows that their Principal’s salary has fallen by approximately 46 %.

This is not intended to be an attack on College Principals, many of whom work extremely hard to improve the situation for their staff and their learners. However, questions must surely be raised concerning the consistency of the situation. The reason cited by the AoC for the 1.5 % offer, which seems likely to lead to another series of strikes and thus affect learners across the country, is the “financial uncertainty” being experienced by FE Colleges. It could be argued that a climate of financial uncertainty is the wrong time to award large pay rises to the higher management; and given the low average pay of the College lecturer, questions may have to be answered as to the parity of pay deals.

Jethro Marsh

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