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Changing from Secondary to FE

Discussion in 'Further Education' started by lollydolly, Jan 12, 2016.

  1. lollydolly

    lollydolly New commenter

    I have just landed a role teaching GCSE English in FE after being a secondary school teacher for a long time. What should I expect? What are the major differences??
  2. TheoGriff

    TheoGriff Star commenter


    Different student body, many of whom are being forced to do GCSE against their will alongside courses in bricklaying/catering/plumbing.

    More relaxed attitude among colleagues.

    Lower pay.

    Timetable may run until 5pm on day shift. You may have to do an evening session (but get a day session off in exchange).

    Informal dress

    Different pastoral issues

    No or little parent issues

    Look carefully at your contract. You cannot change it, but need to know about it.

    Well done for getting the job, hope you enjoy it!

    lollydolly likes this.
  3. TCSC47

    TCSC47 Star commenter

    I made the change from secondary to FE and can confirm what Theo says (of course!). I worked mainly with apprentices so I had their bosses to call on if discipline was needed but the mere threat was always sufficient. I thought I had died and gone to Heaven!!!!

    However, I only saw the start of the FE colleges having to take in students who had no where else to go, so I don't know what effect that may be having at this time. My response to any student who played up was to explain to them that as they were over 16 and no longer at school there were no restraints on either of us for them having to be in the class. (Not strictly true on my part of course. Bums on seats pay the bills.) They were free to leave if they didn't want to be there.

    My college's management was a bit chaotic and I was not surprised to find that my Chief Executive (that's what he called himself) was fired a couple of years ago. I was saddened though, because I felt his heart was in the right place and he was as much a victim of politics and poor funding as anything else. I can't speak for other colleges.

    There were still many of the problems that afflict primary and secondary education like the academic ground constantly moving under my feet, over work, OFSTED and such, but I still thoroughly enjoyed it. I was far more comfortable working with young adults as opposed to children, but then that's me rather than the college.

    I was still contributing to my teacher's pension which as I am now retired was a very good thing. The pay was probably about 10% to 15% lower than an equivalent position in secondary but I was quite happy with that. I took early retirement because my department was merged into another one, necessitating my reapplying for my job as HOD. As I was already working 55 plus hours / wk it was never going to be a sensible move to take on the hassle of picking up the bits afterwards, never mind the humiliation if I didn't get it! So I retired a couple of years early.

    Again, I can not speak for it as of today, but my college colleagues were much less stressed out than those I had worked with in secondary. This to me was very important as I am a bit of a chameleon as far as nerves and stressing colleagues are concerned.

    I was on the main lecturers pay scale which gave me a similar amount of holidays to secondary and primary, but as I had to organise and teach courses throughout the summer, I had to take some of my holiday entitlement within term time. This to me was another dying and going to Heaven moment because I am a skier so passionate that I usually burst into tears when first taking to the snow at the start of the ski week!! No longer did I have to suffer the winter half term, massively crowded, over charged, week, I could select any week I wanted, and enjoy almost empty pistes!

    Sadly, not quite the same for some of my staff. I had defaulted into being HOD because when I started, I was the only person qualified at a teaching level as well as the technical level. My teaching staff were experienced electricians but not qualified in teaching. They were of course working towards their teaching qualifications, but until they got them they were on instructors contacts which gave them much less pay and holidays.

    One final thing, I have been commenting in other strings, here, about the need for teachers to be able to express their creativity and I was privileged to be given the chance to set up a complete electrician course from scratch and left pretty much alone to do it my way with the resources to suit! I made a good job of it even if I say so myself and it has to be one of the highlights of my career. It was hard and stressful work, but not the nasty sort created by the politicians, the gutter media and OFSTED. It was welcome!

    Big good luck and best wishes with your new job!
    lollydolly likes this.
  4. lollydolly

    lollydolly New commenter

    Thanks for the heads up! I'm going take the bull by the horns; I'm looking forward to it.
    JosieWhitehead likes this.
  5. JosieWhitehead

    JosieWhitehead Star commenter

    You'll be working aside many people who have worked outside of teaching for many years and bring their skills into education. I was working with people who CHOSE to learn my subjects and were heading for the workplace, a place outside of education. You may find that some educationalists look down their noses at FE teachers because they may not be "academics" and look on Further Education as a place for those without the ability or wish to go to university. This is so sad. I do wish you all the very best because I spent more than 30 years teaching in Further Education and they were the happiest years of my life. I've just had an evening class student phone me to say "hello" and I taught her when she was 22 and she's 54 now. So students in FE obviously appreciate you, ha ha Good luck.
    lollydolly likes this.
  6. colinbillett

    colinbillett Occasional commenter

    A very interesting question, for me that is, having just left full time teaching, with sixteen years in schools and the last twenty years in FE.

    I wouldn’t disagree with most of the previous comments, but I’ll have to address those of TheoGriff, just for veracity.

    Yes, certainly different students, and those doing GCSE are likely to be having to do it because they are required to, even though they might be doing Music Technology or Public Services. Some resent this, whilst others see it as an opportunity to try again in a more ‘adult’ learning environment. As for me, I escaped this for most of my twenty years, teaching part-time GCSE classes for adults who did want to be there, but I’m afraid that is no longer the case. My last year was about 50/50 over the two groups – those who wanted just GCSE, and those who were there because the rules said they must.

    The attitude is generally more relaxed amongst staff, but you may meet managers who would like to change that. Dress is certainly informal.

    As for what constitutes a ‘day-shift’, that is entirely up to the employer. My contract required me to do up-to two evenings, and I did two nights for twenty years. In the nineties we did get a session off in exchange, which partly attracted me to the job. Then it became that we could count hours after six as 1.5 times the hours done, then 1.25 times, then that was scrapped. So working until nine had no advantage apart from I could go in late some days. One year it was declared that we must teach the A’level programme until 6.00pm, and that was a nightmare. I’d done my 38 hours by Thursday afternoon so it was agreed I got Friday off. But I was somewhat tired by that time of the week.

    Mornings were easier – classes didn’t start until nine, so no playground duty at 8.15 am, and no assemblies, so in many ways no time is wasted; hence my ability to get the job done in the hours available. I’d have free time most afternoons to do a great deal of preparation. Most full-time classes ended at 3.00 or 4.00pm. And because we stopped teaching in May, with no coursework to mark, that gave me all of June and July to prepare for September. I always took four weeks in August, but the holidays are there to be taken outside of the fixed teaching timetable – I took little in the winter, but much in the spring and summer.

    So I loved it – teaching adults who enjoyed my style of teaching, with an emphasis on them taking responsibility for the learning. It is changing, as all things change, but one has to adapt and adopt.

    The best of luck to you indeed. It might be less pay, but then you might be climbing a career ladder. And I found it more than enough money for a comfortable life.
    FullBloom and lollydolly like this.
  7. thekizzaa

    thekizzaa New commenter

    Hi all,

    Firstly congratulations Lollydolly on your new job!

    I'm thinking of moving from Secondary into the FE sector, and was just wondering, is there usually teaching going on all year round? Or is it only in term time?

    And also, if it's term time only, what do FE lecturers do when students aren't there, and they're not on annual leave holiday?

    Sorry if these questions seems a bit basic! Just wanted to know as much as I can before applying for roles!
  8. crockedpot

    crockedpot New commenter

    The bulk of the teaching is done in term time, though you may need to do additional teaching if your college runs summer schools, or interventions during holiday periods. We can only take annual leave in the non-teaching times - just as in a school, with the only difference being that we are not allowed to take time off during 'admin' and 'enrolment' weeks - and during those weeks we are doing just that.
  9. lollydolly

    lollydolly New commenter

    Thanks for the congratulations. Seems like its going to be a lot less stressful! Can't wait.
  10. mmm...Milk

    mmm...Milk New commenter

    1. Your pay will start at £19880 if you are on Band A (teaching quals mean nothing). Once you hit the top of band A, there is little chance of progression to band B.
    2. You will have about 40 days holiday for holiday time, butt generally you can earn Lieu.There are open evenings every month to do.
    3. Most of your students won't want to be there, they will have done L1 functional skills and are now being expected to do GCSE. The pressure on you to get these learners though will be in intense. If they are under 19, they HAVE to be there, and they have to study.
    4. FE are over worked, under paid, and their jobs are constantly on the line because each student has £4k on their bum.
    5. You will work with some dedicated staff, who manage despite all the odds to make difference to a students life, even if it's only from a E to a D grade.
    You will have less students in a class.
    There are lots of mental health problems, but there are more pastoral staff to support you.

    It's a bit doom and gloom, but the sector needs some dedicated, outstanding teachers to make a difference in these lessons, and I am sure you are one of them.
    colinbillett likes this.
  11. beverleythomas59

    beverleythomas59 New commenter

    I found FE a lot more flexible in comparison to Secondary schools, however, the one thing for me was the behavioural aspects - In some circumstances it may seem difficult to manage due to the inability to have 'power' to make decisions, due to procedures in place impacting on what you would normally do in Secondary schools. E.g. in Secondary you could provide sound consequences such as detention, report, contact parents, etc. this is somewhat a lot different in FE. It also depends on what level learners you teach, I find lower level learners have high level of attendance issues and the lack of wanting to be in education. But as a trainee tutor this is only one FE provider I am basing my experience on, as I am sure different FE providers have different procedures in place. Anyway this was not to put you off, it certainly hasn't put me off that's for sure, good luck and I wish you all the best, take care :)
    lollydolly likes this.
  12. lyonsd78

    lyonsd78 New commenter

    Hi guys,

    I was just going to set up a similar thread and then noticed this.

    What I am interested in knowing is; I am undergoing my SCITT next year but in truth I really want to work in FE. I really want to be a Media FE teacher having worked in the Media industry for 12 years,.

    My question is; would my industry experience coupled with my teaching experience (2 years at a secondary as an AT and then on the job teacher training mean I could start to apply for FE jobs? Would I have the required experience?
  13. hhhh

    hhhh Star commenter

    In some colleges, pay is the same as for teachers-as in a 6th form college near us that has an FE section pays far better than the college that is just FE nearby. So you might do the same job-eg teach English FS to a group of young adults-but get paid twice as much in one.
  14. Rozario123

    Rozario123 New commenter

    My college prides itself on having teachers who worked in their field, its their selling point. But it does depend on whether you want to teach BTec or A levels. For A levels they want you to have a degree in the subject but for Btec they don't mind.
  15. trebleklef

    trebleklef New commenter

    Some great posts on here. For those who have gone from secondary to FE I'd like to know how the workload compares? Marking, paperwork tasts etc.
  16. femathsguidebook

    femathsguidebook New commenter

    Hi lollydolly,

    There is a lot of expectations within the FE environment, we have a lot of teachers who come from secondary teaching to FE and it is good to have a clear idea of what to expect.

    I have blogged on this subject recently (https://femathsguidebook.blogspot.co.uk/) mainly concerning maths but I work primarily within an English and Maths department so a lot of what I talk about is transferrable.

    One of the biggest frustrations within the environment is the lack of discplinary approach, depending on your setting, a college runs a lot more like a business so student retention is extremely important. Also considering you are teaching students who may have previously attempted GCSE English, you will have some issues around challenging behaviour.

    FE is a really rewarding experience and I would highly recommend it to anybody looking to make the change, all the best in your new job and congratulations!

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