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FE must be good or people wouldn't work in that sector...!

Discussion in 'Further Education' started by Fizzbobble, Jan 23, 2012.

  1. Fizzbobble

    Fizzbobble Occasional commenter

    Hi - I'm new here. I'm doing PGCE Secondary. I am looking to work in a FE college but I'm only getting negative comments about it. The FE sector has certainly attracted me, so can somebody please reassure me that all the secondary teachers at my placement school are just doom- mongering?
    I keep being told how awful the pay is (looks pretty similar to schools, to my mind!), and how I will still have to tell the pupils off, and basically, that it isn't as super fun as slogging away in a state secondary. This cannot be true, right?
    I want to teach pupils that chose the subject (I'll be teaching a 'wanted' one) and actually make use of my degrees!
  2. It varies. In some colleges it is significantly less, in others it is in the same ball park
    Again it varies. I hardly ever get any classroom management issues, but some of my colleagues struggle with it (and some are horse whisperers).
    Again it varies, but this may be possible, most of my students have chosen to take the course, but this is not always true. Even when students choose a course there may have been an element of compulsion.
    A definite plus for me, (I teach L3 up), but some of my colleagues teach L1/2 school rejects, (and some are happy to do so, others not).
    The other plus I would add is smaller classes where you can really get to know every student.
    The bad side; the paperwork and admin.
    Lastly, I do have to address the title of your post; I'm afraid there are some who work in FE because they couldn't get a job anywhere else.
  3. I totally agree with S&T! Other benefits:
    1. No national curriculum to worry about

    2. No supervision duties during break, lunch etc

    3. For many courses, no babying (i.e. Good morning class, write the title, date, etc on the board in school. In Colleges, they just do it!)
    4. The best one for me is being able to treat and be treated as an equal when dealing with the better behaved/'more able' students (i.e. I'm addressed by my first name not Miss B and there's more of an interaction when teaching. E.g. When teaching a topic, I like it when we debate stuff and when they disagree, we can discuss it, instead of the students just writing down what I say and learning it verbatim and then whinging that what I said wasn't in the exam!)
  4. The biggest differences, in my mind, are:-
    - FE is not as regimented as school (no buzzer/bell, no uniforms, no scheduled breaks, first-name terms) for both students AND staff
    - The "pound of flesh" factor I find at FE to be a lot less than at school. Of course you will be expected to teach at least once a week in the evenings or offer extra-curricular syllabus-related activities if on a full-time contract but there are no sports days, PE, prizegivings etc to attend.
    - Currently students elect to attend College, which results in a huge effect on students' motivation. I have never experienced "behaviour issues". Likewise with all of my colleagues, "firefighting" just doesn't happen here. You are able to delegate some responsibility for learning to your students (as FE is a half-way house between school and Uni/emoloyment), treat your students as young adults and as such the feeling of independence and respect they receive tends to quash any desire to "play up".
    - The "type" of students you will be teaching varies wildly with the subjects you teach at college. Some subject areas attract certain kinds of students.
    - The atmosphere at a thriving FE college is superior to that of a Secondary School due to the huge variety of qualifications, age of students (adults and teens) and the mix of vocational AND academic studies.
    Paperwork and admin is fine. Any public-sector job is the same and shouldn't really have any bearing on your decision. As for the standard of teaching, again, maybe it is this individual college but the standard of teaching is superb as evidenced by our latest OFSTED report (1's across the board) and my own observations.

    Just my two cents. I was built for FE!

  5. I'd love to teach at your College, as many of my colleagues would disagree with you here, especially those teaching BTEC courses below level 3! That said, what you describe was certainly true of my A-level students!

    Again, I'd love to work at your college, as at my previous college, a lot of it was pointless, ever-changing and consequently the bane of everyone's life, especially those teaching...lalala.

    This says it all! My previous college was graded as good but went through a lot of changes, so it will be interesting to see what OFSTED thinks of it this year!

    I still prefer post 16 teaching to school teaching though!
  6. Fizzbobble

    Fizzbobble Occasional commenter

    Thanks for your replies. I guess I just hope that my mentors would wish me luck and not slate my choice...! It doesn't inspire one with confidence when writing an application form!
  7. Someone is wrong. It's you or Ofsted, as Ofsted has just published its annual review of FE and again commented that no provider has been judged outstanding for teaching and learning.
  8. I've found that those who elect to study for a BTEC level 1-3 generally fall into two camps: those who lack the academic ability to follow the A Level path at 6th form and so often find FE has lower entry requirements or their subject is vocationally geared. As a result often numeracy and literacy can be a challenge. And of course, it is possible in some colleges to teach at level 4-6 without needing a PhD and do research.
  9. Georgia99

    Georgia99 New commenter

    I have worked in both sectors and secondary teachers do tend to think they have the better deal when I have spoken to them. In terms of salary, secondary teachers probably start slightly lower at 21555 but the difference is that there is a guaranteed salary increase each year as you go up the main scale so as a teacher you are on c30k within 5 years. On top of that you get extra money in secondary for responsibility, teaching sen etc. That is not something you will get in FE.
    You also have the option to leave school at 3pm, where as FE is normally 5pm. However you get more admin time in FE so maybe this balances itself.
    As others have said, there are no assemblies, uniform checks, detentions etc in FE. Behaviour can be poor in FE but will never come close to secondary school behaviour.
    FE there is a strong focus on recruitment and retention, this hasn't been my experience in secondary. I always find there is a better atmosphere in FE and people seem less stressed but that is just my own personal experience. I never went home feeling stressed after a day dealing with post 16s, with the under 16s I do constantly.
    Everyone is different in terms of what they find rewarding in a career.
  10. Well said! In the better colleges though, most people are relatively content, shall we say, with what they earn
    Again, this depends on the college, as in my previous college, non teaching time was spent either covering classes for absent colleagues (no rarely cover, PPA time or Cover supervisors for us, I'm afraid), phoning up the parents of absent tutee students, attending pointless 'academy' or 'line manager meetings' or having 'disciplinary meetings' with tutee students. Needless to say, little admin time was actually spent on useful admin (like planning lessons)
    Again, this depends on the course! In some cases, the behaviour is worse because little Johnny knows that your college has a bums on seats policy and that as an 'adult', there is little that you can actually do about it as your mealy mouthed line managers are too scared to get rid of him because the college needs the money earned from keeping little Johnny on the register (I'm referring to the poorer colleges here. In terms of the better colleges, georgia is absolutely right).
    Again, this is not the case for all colleges, so as others have said, please do your homework! I actually felt less stressed when I worked in school 6th forms because the managers managed and there was a more disciplined, supportive and organised atmosphere. That said, I just couldn't get used to dealing with the under 16s, so I went back to FE. Now, I'm not teaching in a school or college because my last college post made me so ill, so please don't have the illusions that life in a college is cushdy because in a lot of cases, it isn't!

  11. Please spare a thought for the staff at Adam Smith College, Kirkcaldy, Scotland. My friend is working there and the situation seems very worrying and could happen anywhere or to anyone. Are there any similar stories out there or is this what FEis being reduced to now???
    The newspaper article here:http://www.scotsman.com/news/education/we_don_t_reward_bullying_college_insists_1_2083438
    and the staff message board is here: www.itsourcollegenotcraigs.org

  12. Haha! Good old OFSTED! I can e-mail you, or hyperlink you, to OFSTED's "Outstanding" across the board inspection report for the college I work at. This was 3-4 years ago and due to being outstanding we are currently on OFSTED's self-inspection process. We are due the actual gang down imminently though, most likely next year?
    I question the merits of planned inspections... all and sundry knows they're not reflective of the "actual" teaching and learning taking place at the institution, just how much work has been put into "those" lessons for that week... *sigh*

  13. I've worked in FE now for 8 years and there are big differences and similarities between SE and this sector:
    1. The gap in pay is pretty big, my SE equivalent is on about £3000 a year more than me.
    2. I work on average 50 hours a week, between August and December it can average 60 hours as there is a huge increase in paperwork, report writing, personal tutor files, action planning, lesson planning, IVing, marking, disciplinaries etc although I'm presuming this is the same in SE
    3. I work full time not term time but get the same pay (well, less) as SE teachers
    4. I teach 16-19 and there are massive discipline problems. Just because the students choose to come to college, it doesn't mean they behave!! In fact, we don't have any legal power to make students attend and this affects attendance figures which you will be ultimately responsible for (don't get me started on retention - why is it my fault that the kids can't be bothered to come to lessons??)
    5. SE teachers have little regard or respect for what we do in FE, and it's because they don't understand how hard it can be. Therefore the general concensus is to undervalue FE teachers. We work very hard, for less money and less holidays, and less professional respect.
    I know it's all negative, but you need to seriously weigh up the options. Maybe teaching in a 6th form might be better? That's my hope anyway!!!
  14. I think if this thread tells us anything, it's that you really cannot "generalise" FE as a job. It has far too many variables. The only things you can be certain of in FE are...

    - Students are older and only have to be onsite for their lessons.
    - They have elected to enter FE rather than take up a job or apprenticeship (The reasons for WHY they have decided this are ultimately varied). This will soon no longer be an option thanks to the raising of compulsory-education to 17 years old next year and 18 in 2015. Nothing to do with the lack of unskilled jobs available in this country WHATsoever that...
    - The material is of a much more advanced level
    - No uniform and first name terms between students and staff
    - No "living by the bell"
    - No expectation of having to attend superfluous events which have no impact on teaching and learning

    Wages, salaries, behavioural issues and working conditions will all vary with institution, geographical area, local culture, the subject you teach and ultimately, YOUR TEACHING STYLE.
  15. The only things you can be certain of in FE are...
    - Students are older and only have to be onsite for their lessons
    Not necessarily so - increasing numbers of 14 - 16 year olds are coming to college, especially ones with "behavioural issues" and they have to be on site at all times.

    No expectation of having to attend superfluous events which have no impact on teaching and learning Does that refer to students or staff? Staff have to attend any number of events that are a complete waste of time !
    Stuents may have chosen to go to college but that is no guarantee of commitment or good behaviour. The pressures of retention and achievement must not be underestimated.


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