plus ça change

A quick trawl of the web offers these timely reminders:

Further education lecturer, Barnet

Diana Whelham
Salary: £26,780

* Leo Benedictus
* Society Guardian,
* Thursday March 20 2003
* Article history

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This article was first published on guardian.co.uk on Thursday March 20 2003. It was last updated at 23:43 on March 19 2003.
Diana Whelham

Diana Whelham

The biggest problem for me and my colleagues at the moment is the way our workload isn’t being recognised. We work to a 23-hour week and the new management is trying to get us to accept a 25-hour contract as part of its restructuring.

This might sound easy, but it doesn’t take into account all the administrative parts of the job, the marking or the time spent talking to students and parents. It all adds up to another 20 hours a week, which makes it very difficult to find time to prepare my students’ work properly within the working day.

What’s more, we’re being asked to meet more and more targets for things like language training and dealing with mental health problems. And, of course, in further education we don’t get classroom assistants so, as an art and film teacher, I have to go out and buy all the materials and everything we need. All this makes it extremely hard for me to keep reading up on my subject or actually make it to the cinema.

The new contract offers a small extra increment in pay, but I can’t support it. It’s not about the money, it’s about impossible workload. We’re all feeling very demoralised. There are other schools and colleges in the area which have accepted it, but we’ve resisted for a long time, with the help of our union, Natfhe, which has been excellent.

Last year’s inspection was incredibly stressful, although in the end it went reasonably well and we had good responses from the students. It worries me that, under these conditions, the teaching they receive will eventually be impaired. To some managers, targets have become more important than students.

People forget that we teachers are here because we want to do it, it’s a vocation to us. And yet we have so many targets to meet that we don’t have time to build relationships with students or discuss issues in class. I’m thinking about moving out of the profession, and that’s a real shame.

The good news is I’ve moved into my own art hut, which is great, although I can feel a little bit isolated. Luckily, my colleagues are absolutely brilliant people. It’s their support that energises me – that’s what keeps us all going.

Public voices: March 21 2002

Further education lecturer, Barnet
Salary: £25,000

The main change that has affected my work in the last 12 months is the further reduction to course teaching hours. This does not mean that I have less work to do. The opposite is true – I now have to teach the same syllabus in less time. This in turn means I have to teach extra classes, which means more students to deal with, more marking and more preparation.

My college is also due for an inspection in April, so I will be spending more time than usual working at home. Inspection is a really stressful time for all teachers because we have to fit in even more paperwork into our already very busy schedules. We are also observed and graded on our performance in the classroom.

I think that most FE lecturers feel there are just not enough hours in the day to do the job properly these days. We have recently received a small pay rise which helps a little bit. This was funded by the Teacher’s Pay Incentive initiative, which is intended to keep qualified and experienced teachers in the classroom. Frankly though, I think it’s going to take quite a lot more than this to avoid a shortfall in the numbers of lecturers working in the sector. We have been fighting for parity of pay with teachers for a long time now and most of us feel our wages are not in accordance with our qualifications and experience.

Despite this, I can honestly say that I love teaching and feel that I am privileged to be able to do the work that I do. I am still really enthusiastic about the subjects that I teach (art and film) and to see a student pick up on an idea or develop something creative is a real thrill. As a result my work is genuinely rewarding a lot of the time and I regard myself as committed to my job. I am also very lucky to work with fabulous colleagues who are all very supportive and caring.

Unfortunately though, the increased stress and tiredness make it more and more likely that I will change the direction of my career into an area where I will feel more valued generally.
Lou Alexander

The Common Good: March 21 2001

Further education lecturer, Barnet
Salary: £24,500

Most FE lecturers feel extremely demoralised at the moment. This is mainly because their pay levels have fallen drastically behind school teachers who do a very similar job. There are constant pressures to teach more hours each week too.

This is especially frustrating because we perform such an important role. A lot of 16 year olds do not have access to sixth forms at their schools and so they have to come to us to gain any further qualifications.

As a London college it is also true to say that most of our students come from groups which tend to underachieve academically. Many also have social and family problems. Consequently, they are especially in need of dedicated teaching staff who can give them plenty of attention.

In my experience, most FE lecturers work very hard. Their jobs, like many other public sector workers’ jobs, have been made even more difficult by the increase in paperwork. This means they have less time to deal with student problems and the development of their skills. On the other hand we are also being pushed constantly to improve examination results. We are caught in the middle and it is often the students who suffer.

Many people believe that teachers have ridiculously long holidays, but believe me, we need them.

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