The new discussion paper ‘Developing a Four Nations College Blueprint for a Post-Brexit Economy’ reminds us “Colleges are anchor community institutions across the Four Nations” that provide high-level, high-quality technical and professional skills for employers and local communities and “are ready and able to deliver more with the right investment and support.”
That’s the key.
And at the heart of all this are human resources. The quality of teachers and teaching is the single most important factor determining the standard of education.
According to research by Education Support Partnership, there is a recruitment and retention crisis with over a third of the school, FE and HE profession expect to leave by 2020.
Teach First say that there aren’t simply enough great teachers because in England, for every teacher that joins the profession, one leaves.
If you were to ask FE governors what the most pressing issues facing their colleges were you’d be pretty certain to hear ‘funding’ and ‘recruitment and retention’.
The school and college funding crisis is very real. Draconian cuts and continual belt-tightening have pushed college mergers, restructures and redundancies. Not even Houdini was tied up this tightly. Unsurprisingly, instability and insolvency are scaring people away from applying for jobs.
The challenges in recruiting and retaining staff, particularly in maths, English, and STEM subjects is sector-wide problem so what’s it coming down to?
College have found it extremely tough to recruit the quality staff they desperately need because of years of real-term pay cuts. Since 2009, FE staff have had a real-terms cut of 21.9% and that has bitten hard.
According to the Education and Training Foundation’s annual workforce data report, mean pay across all provider types is £29,800 which compares to mean pay of £36,100 across all full-time workers in England in 2017.
The cost of living is the second biggest barrier to teacher retention so although teaching in schools isn’t particularly well paid either, college teachers are leaving to teach in schools because they can earn more as there is a £7,000 pay gap on average between schools and colleges.
The report notes that most occupations have seen a decline in staff numbers with the largest decline seen among Senior managers (10%). Only apprentice and learner-facing technical staff numbers have risen (15% and 1% respectively).
Workload and Wellbeing
Teachers don’t mind hard work but they want a fair workload, not so much that it kills them.
Retaining teachers and other staff working in education is of high importance in order to ensure colleges are well and appropriately staffed.
In their report Britain at a crossroads, Teach First note that not only is teacher workload significantly higher in the UK than in other countries, but it's also the profession’s biggest concern. According to the DfE, 70% of teachers leave the profession citing workload as the main reason.
According to the Teacher Wellbeing Index 2018, an overwhelming majority of the UK’s education professionals say they have suffered physical and mental health issues as a result of their jobs. Many staff felt that they were unsupported in their roles, considered they received low pay and experienced problems with their work/life balance
Excessive workload and work-life balance emerged as the top causes of poor mental health, with more than two-thirds of education professionals reporting this. Adding to stress levels have been a whole raft of education policy changes and initiatives piled upon the sector.
The Teacher Wellbeing Index report recommends annual staff surveys to become statutory in all colleges, increased awareness, knowledge and signposting to external support services and access to an externally provided Employee Assistance Programme for all staff.
Looking for a new role in FE? Search the latest vacancies.
Professional development matters as every teacher needs to progress and CPD can help improve teacher retention. The Government notes that England has had a weaker commitment to CPD for teachers than many high-performing countries.
All teachers should have the entitlement and opportunity to undertake high-quality, CPD and engage in research but whether they get it or have the appetite for it is a different thing entirely.
According to the E&T Foundation report, over 60% of FE teachers spend no time at all on CPD yet if teachers were developed fewer would leave. The University and College Union (UCU) describes CPD as “essential” and has urged college leaders to ensure that all teaching staff have the opportunity to keep up to date with pedagogical developments.
Clearly the FE sector will face numerous issues as it transitions to the T Levels system from 2020 if it doesn’t invest in effective CPD opportunities for staff.
Why Teach in FE?
Recruiting, retaining and developing high-quality teachers is a complex task.
Aiming to inspire people to take up careers as teachers and trainers in the Further Education and Training sector, the Education and Training Foundation (ETF) has launched a new short film featuring professionals from across the sector explaining why they chose their career and the satisfaction they derive from it. Take a look here.
Looking for a new role in further education? Check out the latest live roles direct-with-colleges here.
About the author
John is an ex-primary school teacher and Ofsted inspector who has spent the last 20 years working in the education industry as a teacher, writer and editor. John’s specialist area is primary maths but he also loves teaching science and English. John has written a number of educational and children’s books, and contributed over 1,000 articles and features to various educational bodies. John is eTeach’s school leadership and Ofsted advice guru, sharing insights on best practice for motivating and enriching a school team, as well as sharing savvy career steps for headteachers and SLT.