In a lot of ways, the FE sector saved my teaching career. I found it while wandering the educational landscape like a masterless samurai – a little lost and a lot bruised by my time in challenging schools, alternative provision, adult training and supply. One FE teacher writes in Tes
If I’m going to be completely honest, before I started working in FE I had very little knowledge of what it was all about. In my mind were a few vague ideas about teaching slightly older kids, possibly in factories or something (so, in that way I was a lot like our politicians). I was completely unprepared for the variety and challenge that the sector brings, and, to my infinite good fortune, it fit me like a glove. The spread of students and courses, the focus on vocational attainment, the slightly different teacher/student dynamic that you find in further education in comparison to anywhere else left me feeling like there was a point to it all. I felt lucky that I had discovered this treasure-trove of an area that rejuvenated my career and allowed me to feel a little less lost in the crazy, madcap world of education.
But as refreshing as I found it, there are still many similarities with the other educational sectors that I’ve been involved in. The working day is just as relentless, the challenges in regard to engagement and retention are huge, and the pressure for results is the same as just about anywhere else. As someone who has experienced a wide spread of teaching, doing it in FE is no less difficult than doing it anywhere else.
Which is why I find it more than a little troubling when faced with information from David Hughes, AoC chief exec that there is, on average, a £7,000 pay gap on average between schools and colleges. For me, FE offered a change that got me back in the game. But take it from someone who knows: it isn’t seven grand’s worth of difference. With the 3.5 per cent pay rise for (some) teachers in schools being announced while in FE we still continuing with AoC and union negotiations, once again the value (or lack of it) that is placed on the sector it’s thrown into sharp relief.
Please tell us your thoughts in comments or via Twitter ~ Tamsin
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