NATFHE, the largest union for Further Education College Lecturers, has used the delivery of the petition on FE funding to Downing Street to continue their campaign to gain equality in pay for FE lecturers.
Their proposed merger with the Association of University Teachers (AUT), which is now being put to the vote of their respective memberships, will see them become an even greater union with over a hundred thousand members on current figures, and would presumably see their bargaining position on behalf of the interests of their members grow proportionately. And the campaign to gain fair pay for FE lecturers has been amongst the foremost priorities for NATFHE.
The Stark Facts
The petition, which arrived at Number 10 on Tuesday, was led by the Association of Colleges (AoC). They are using this opportunity to highlight the problems with current college funding arrangements, which mean that some 700,000 16-19-year-old college students receive an average of £400 less funding a year each than their school counterparts, and that up to 700,000 adult learning places will be cut by 2008.
The figures are indeed disturbing. More than twice as many 16-18-year-olds study in colleges than schools – 701,000 in FE colleges or sixth form colleges compared with just 345,000 in schools (for the years 2003 / 2004). The growth of studying in FE is not restricted to post 16 education; 100,000 14-16-year-olds study in FE (during the same period of 2003 / 2004) which is expected to rise to 250,000 by 2008. The FE colleges enjoy great success rates and participation; FE institutions have a 72% pass rate, whereas if schools were measured in a similar way their pass rate would be 50%.
All areas of education and training have seen great success in FE colleges. Colleges are responsible for 90% of the adults who gain basic skills qualifications, and for half of all Level 3 qualifications in the workforce. More than 40% of those entering higher education go through FE colleges (including Kat Fletcher, the current President of the National Union of Students (NUS)), and colleges see more than three million adult learners through their doors each year.
The teachers in the FE sector are generally amongst the hardest working professionals in the country. NATFHE claim that teachers and lecturers top the unpaid overtime league table doing an average of 11 hours and 36 minutes extra work a week. NATFHE are concerned that the funding gap is partly to blame for the estimated 10 per cent pay gap between college lecturers and schoolteachers. With more than half of the FE workforce due to retire within a decade, this is a pressing issue, highlighted by the turnover rate for staff (lecturing staff turnover figures increased from 11% to 14.3% between September 2003-September 2004).
NATFHE is currently balloting 26,000 of its members who work in further education on whether they want to strike over pay in November, and Barry Lovejoy, NATFHEs head of colleges, said: “Thousands of NATFHE members working in further education signed this petition because every day they see the damaging effects of the unjust 13% funding gap between colleges and schools, and of the diminishing pot of public money for colleges popular work with adults. We urge the government to take steps to prevent colleges from being irrecoverably damaged.”
Will this resolve the pay issue? Tell us in the FE Blog
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