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My FE Experience

Discussion in 'Further Education' started by zakbrown1900, Feb 15, 2011.

  1. zakbrown1900

    zakbrown1900 New commenter

    I can remember when I studied for a PGCE and I was taught
    about the values of reflection so I have decided write this post about my experience
    of FE lecturing.

    When I studied for a degree I had a simple aim of earning
    enough money to get by. Perhaps have a
    mortgage on a small terraced house and be able to pay the bills. When I heard about being able to study for a
    PGCE in further education, have course fees paid and receive a small bursary I
    thought this was the answer to my dreams.
    I could one day be a lecturer and hopefully earn a reasonable wage. I tried really hard on my degree and did
    exceptionally well. I tried equally hard
    on the PGCE and passed with flying colours.
    Whilst on placement for the PGCE I met many lecturers that were paid on
    an hourly basis and they all told me their horror stories of earning less than
    the minimum wage, working 50+ hours per week for many years before being
    employed full time. I felt for them but
    thought this not happen to me – it did.

    When I graduated from the PGCE there were no jobs where I
    lived so I spent a year supply teaching in schools. I always thought that if I did this at least
    there will be something to fall back onto if times are hard again. As you can imagine it was incredibly tough
    and something I hope I will never experience again. I then worked in a college for a couple of
    years and was paid by the hour. I worked
    in the college for four days per week but spent the other two to three days
    preparing for lessons and marking. No
    matter how efficient you become it still takes time to perform the necessary
    duties. I suffered incredible pressure
    from observations, students’ performance, trying my best to do well as a
    lecturer and earned very little pay.
    This was enough for me to choose not to want a career in lecturing.

    I returned to education to study for a year and am now lecturing
    again for the short term. How things
    have changed since I left. I wanted to
    get back into supply teaching but found, after signing up for a number of
    teaching agencies, that supply teachers in schools are more or less none existent
    and now everyone is a Cover Supervisor (no qualifications required and I mean
    none). If you don’t accept £60 per day
    you not get work (even if you work everyday of the school year you only get
    So I signed up to a college lecturing agency only to find that whilst the terms
    are much better you get £19 per hour (which includes holiday pay). I taught for 18 hrs/5days per week (prepped
    at nights and the weekend) and still only got the equivalent of 12k per
    year. In short I struggle to earn £10k
    per year as there is never work all year round.

    Then I think that one day perhaps I will be given a golden ticket to
    become a full time lecturer. But then I
    talk to many lecturers and they have not got it good working over 50 hours per
    week (not paid a single penny for the 13 hours overtime), a short amount of
    holidays compared to secondary, pressure of having tutor groups,
    internal/external observations, covering staff illness and other responsibilities. Now there are voluntary redundancies (which
    will change to compulsory) in many colleges and I have found out only today
    that colleges are employing people as Trainers instead of Lecturers. Where they have even less holidays, more
    teaching hours, still have to prep and assess and from what I can gather can
    earn a maximum of £22k per year. Is this
    the future of FE? It saddens me deeply
    that I am not the only person in this situation and there will be many, many
    more to come. On top of that I spent a
    year learning how to teach and my PGCE is not recognised in schools. If a school ever did take me on I would earn
    much less than the other teachers and classed as unqualified (which happened to
    a friend of mine that was on my course and chose this route).

    I have got false hope that one day things may improve but
    realistically I don’t think they will. Just thought I would share my FE experience. Has anyone else out there experienced something similar?
  2. BillyBobJoe

    BillyBobJoe Lead commenter

    Just the opposite, quite honestly. I spent the last 3 years in secondary, and recently switched to FE. It's like paradise by comparison. I get paid more for less teaching hours, I have time during the day to complete pretty much all my planning and prep, I get time off in lieu for after hours work. Students are largely pleasant, compliant and interested, if not all that able or hardworking. Planning is nothing like as onerous, without the expectation of performance and constant assessment, never mind ludicrously extensive documentation. Ok, so I'm still in the early stages, but compared to my experience starting at a school, it's great.
    Possibly teaching A-Level shortage subjects helps, particularly in terms of securing a permanent post.
  3. Zak you are not alone.
    Colleges are hiring people as Trainers - way of cutting budgets.
    Aw the tricks that are pulled. I know some organisation (s) who get qualified people in, get their contract then get them out, saves money. They then get one person to so 3 peoples jobs regardless of qualifications paying them the wooping sum of 14,000.WOW

    Try not to dispair, like me you have worked very hard, it can be soul distroying. Try thinking out of the box - work as an outside education Tutor. You could try working part-time for yourself.
  4. No. The complete opposite. The post I occupy had been vacant for over a year and the college was so desperate they had begun advertising in Poland. Although, due to the recession, I don't think they would have any difficulty re-filling it now.
    I make this point not to invalidate your experience, which I sincerely feel for, and which has been described to me before. It really is a crying shame that someone so commited to teaching cannot find a permanent post.
    Rather I make it to point out that in a knowledge economy not all knowledge is of equal value, and I only wish that this was explained to our young people currently considering college and university courses.
  5. moonpenny

    moonpenny Occasional commenter

    Hi Zak, sorry to hear about the situation you are in but it doesn't surprise me.
    I did sessional work for a year (23 hours of teaching a week) and was claiming working tax credit asI was a single parent and my income fell below the 16k threshold for WTC. This meant I was entiled to free perscriptions and dental care - still didn't have enough to pay the rent though which left me in the **** for a while.
    Luckily,the following year I got a full time job but only because I was prepared to move to an expensive part of the country.(in fact, I got offered 2 jobs but the other was in a really depressing place I didn't really want to move to) I think I might have been in a similar situation to you if I hadn't have moved.
    I have noticed a real increase in the amount of applications we are getting for vacancies here. This is also one of the reasons wages can be lowered by giving existing jobs different job titles and tweaking the specs a little - there is always someone willing to do the job if we don't want it, especially at a time when many people , both inside and outside of education are losing their jobs. (unless your area is a shortage one )
    I hope something comes up for you. You just have to keep in there as you never know, something might come up .
  6. Again I had the opposite experience. I did a year sessional, alongside lots of other work, and then got a full time position at the first time of trying.
    I do hope that is true as I am about to see an dvert go in for a new mini me! Previously in all subject except Psychology and Biology we have had very few applicants for any post! FE just doeisn't seem popular - well up until now it hasn't!
    I can only assume that eother you are in an odd subject area or I was exceptionally lucky - and I don't tend to win anything!!
  7. moonpenny

    moonpenny Occasional commenter

    Which part of the country are you in?
    The subject and area of country probably do play a part in the number of applicants.
    My ex did sessional art teaching for quite a few years and never managed to get a perm job, not even a part time one - that was in the North of England in a low cost housing area. Even one of his colleagues there who had been at the college for years couldn't get a full time job In fact, he ended up teaching at Leeds uni but still couldn't get more than a limited amount of regular hours at the college. Perm contracts were like gold dust
    We never knew were we were with money as the wage was never regular and holidays were bad as there was no income for him at all. Luckily, my job was well paid. The last straw came when they offered him about 9 hours one September - it just wasn't viable and he ended up having to look for a teaching job in a different sector.

    Hope you find your mini me.
  8. There are two FEs - one for the rich and the other for the 'ordinary' folk. Most people who have had problems, including myself, work for the latter. You should try teaching science with no gas supply and no technician to students with no qualifications, and all under the threats of the grateful (not) Ofsted and their annual inspections which attempt to make us teachers the apparent source of all of FEs problems. FE is about the government blaming teachers to cover-up its own lack of chronic funding, and about managers blaming teachers to cover-up for their own errors. It makes me laugh when managers complain how hard it is to recruit suitable qualified staff - personally I am joining the haemorrhage of lecturers from FE ASAP. I am highly qualified and praised highly by my students, but that counts for nought in FE today.
  9. Really?? Never met that before! FE is FE, same £ per student wherever you go!
    ReallY?? No gas, and are you saying you had no students or no qualified technicians? Or are you saying you had a student tech? Student techs are par for the course and you often get unqialifed techs - likethe lecturers they get on the job training!
    As for no gas.... I simply cannot believe that you would be teaching chemistry without it!
    I'm not management but I do help with the interview process and we cannot fill our full or part time posts in any subjectwith anyone who is even vaguely capable. Too many schooltecahers who believe FE will be a walk in the park, too many not quite qualifieds who think FE will take them when schools won't - not enough people who think FE is the job they actually want, just one that will do!
    Which counts for nothing if you don't like FE, won't do all of the roles a lecturer has to take onwithout resenting it and can't stop denigrating the sector in almost every post made.
    As usual I don't recognise the FE I work in from your posts, especially the bit about there being 2 versions of it!!

  10. Ditto - I'm not by any means management, but I did sit on some interview panels, and we have really struggled to find competent science lecturers. Having said that, I'd be happier working with teacher-refugees fleeing the schools. Another problem - we probably need 3-4 more full-time science lecturers. We're not advertising for them because that would mean employing them permanently. We're going through Protocol, and even then I think it's a case of us phoning them up and getting them to send through some CVs, rather than them advertising the role. Mine is probably not the only college doing this.
  11. Sadly my mind has been changed on this one over the last couple of years. But that might just be bad luck on our part!
    I have been REALLY surprised at the dire quality of some applicants - I have no idea why they thought they'd be deemed acceptable! Even the students in the mini teach were vaguely disturbed by the lack of ability in some - including the Biology teacher who spoke to us perfectly normally but taught in an extremely loud, piping Clanger type voice that reduced us (listening from outside the room) to puddles! How the students managed not to laugh at her I have no idea!
    Oh! I wonder if that is why my mini-me job has not gone out yet!!

  12. zakbrown1900

    zakbrown1900 New commenter

    Thank you for all the replies.

    I think it all comes down to the basic fact that I should have done my PGCE in secondary education and not FE. If I would have done this I would have been certain to get a full time permanent post (you only have to keep an eye on TES to see how many there are). With my previous grades this would have also been in a good school. I have never seen an hourly paid job in schools so this would not have been an issue (to be honest I have never seen a part time post advertised either but I am sure these exist and the terms would be much fairer). In addition I would be able to work really close to where I live so there would be no travel problems either. Instead of hoping for £10k per year I would be earning about £28k now. There would have been much more holidays so I could spend summers with my children as well. I know I am painting a picture of this perfect job and I am sure there are many negatives to teaching in schools but at least the pay is good which should be a priority of any job.

    As I have been in teaching a while three of my friends have asked me if they should train to teach in colleges or schools. I tell them the pros and cons of each and they all decided that schools were the best. All three have now finished their training and working in really nice schools. One is actually teaching mostly six form students as well. They love their jobs and plan to teach for many years. Just wish I had chosen the same route.

    Just to respond to one comment where it was stated that it is difficult to fill posts as not many suitable applicants apply. I have applied for one job before where there were ten people suitable for interview and six were internal applicants (this is the absolute truth). I was one of these internal applicants as I studied for my PGCE at the college for a year. The person that got the job had been hourly paid for a number of years and the job was always going to be his (which is understandable for the poor bloke, waiting for so long). But the question had to be asked about what the other internal applicants were doing (I know at least three were hourly paid waiting for their chance to get a full time job as they were my friends and colleagues). Competition is usually fierce as there are less colleges and more suitable applicants (for reasons such as many lecturers that I worked with were full time and only had A levels and Cert Eds so did not have a degree - which I don't disapprove of as industrial experience is just as valid as quals in FE).

    It does not matter too much now as I have got a master's degree and plan to move out of school and FE teaching all together but thought I would share my experience with others. In a way it is lucky that teaching did to work for me as I would not have done the master's which I loved doing and I love research which I hope to move into. Just hope things work out in the future.
  13. Based on that I think you will continue to experience difficulty with recruitment.

  14. Just to qualify my comment...
    We don't have any internal candidates, we are a new and very small department.
    Our problem is suitable candidates.
    In other posts here about teachers considering the change to FE there seems to be a train of thought that FE might be easier...!!! It comes up so often I am sure that it must seem that way from the school side of the fence.
    The only problem is that it is not true! We have had some horrendously inappropriate applications and one woman who actually said that she was looking forward to having a rest!!
    We have had squeaking clanger sounding people, whispering minnies, sergeant major shouters and one extremely rude man who kept snarling at the students if they didn't answer his questions quickly enough. He later explained to me that he knew the students were supposed to make it hard for the applicants but he felt that they were actively trying to make him fail the interview!
    He did not seem to understand why he was not selected and made quite a fuss afterwards.

    Now I know that these MUST be the oddities, but they are the majority of what we get, being rural, new and small!It is really disheartening!
  15. BillyBobJoe

    BillyBobJoe Lead commenter

    My experience, The Pobble, is that FE is a bit easier, certainly if you go from teaching 11-16 comprehensive to teaching almost entirely A-Level. Removing most of the behaviour management makes a huge impact.
  16. BillyBobJoe

    BillyBobJoe Lead commenter

    FE college, not 6th form (I've done some school 6th form teaching in the past, which is very nice but mostly because of TINY classes e.g. 1 student for A2 physics). Both the school and my college pull from the lower end of the A-Level cohort, but the big difference I find compared to 11-16 is that, while some students are a little off the wall, they're not actively hostile and, if they're preventing teaching, you can, if the circumstances warrant, kick them out and tell them to come back when they can behave. Used sparingly, it sends the clear reminder that the voluntary part of post-16 education cuts both ways.
    Basically, my experience has been that the worst groups I have in FE are on a par with the best groups I taught in school.
  17. At least now it looks like we will be getting recognition of QTLS in schools. I signed up with an agency but have turned down supply work in school as I would only get instructor rate and have taken one to one work instead.
    As an FE Lecturer in Key / Functional Skills of English, Maths & ICT, which vocational students usually do not want to study, I am covering an area that the Government say that they are focussing on, but I cannot get a permanent position in college. My hourly paid position was terminated when I was off ill (but about to return after Christmas).
    I have a degree from a top university, though I did a Cert Ed due to my personal workload - I was working as a teaching assistant, teaching part time and with a young family at the time (so not everyone with a Cert Ed is without a degree). I have experience in the military and in business so have plenty to offer my learners in addition to pure academic teaching.
    After my work was terminated, I worked part-time, hourly paid supply at another FE institution travelling nearly 100 miles each day and then spent last summer applying for as many jobs as I could. I now divide my time between teaching adults in the SfL sector (pre-entry to Level 2) and working as a one to one tutor in a school (thankfully I am fully qualified for that so get the same rate as QTS teachers - though I had to fight for that one).
    Living in a rural county I have to travel some distance between my classes, for example one day I travel 29 miles round trip to the school where I work 9 -12, then I have to travel from home after a quick lunch to an adult session 2 - 3.30pm (34 miles round trip in another direction) followed by an evening class in my own town from 7 - 9pm. All very different classes which involve very different preparation etc. I fit in the family committments between all of this and am shattered by the end of the 8 am - 9.30pm day (followed by prep and marking).
    All of this is hourly paid and I struggle to make ends meet - I receive some travel costs (with ever increasing fuel costs this is an issue), other travel I pay for. One week I didn't get paid and had to borrow money to pay the bills that week until I got paid again. Of course I don't get paid during the holidays (I supposedly have holiday pay included in my hourly rate of £22.16 - but who can afford to put money on one side for holiday periods when every penny I earn goes straight out again?)
    Yes I know that the financial situation is difficult and I expect to do my bit to help, but I am still no-where near the salary I had when I retired from a short period in the military nearly 17 years ago. I believe that I do a good job and make a difference to my learners' education experience, but feel, at times, that I have been used as cheap labour. Too much emphasis is put on the fact that people like us generally enjoy what we do, don't want to let our leaners down and are concerned about keeping the work that we do have, so that we work for long hours preparing and marking without full recognition, particularly when we are hourly paid and know that there is very little chance of getting a permanent position.
    I'm glad that some people do not find this to be the case - but I feel like I am doing all that I can yet am receiving scant reward. At least I have the prospect of more one to one work next term which pays a little better than my hourly teaching rate, but what happens in the summer? It is no fun having to sign on and being told that I have to take a job at £7 an hour, just to survive the summer holiday period and afterwards if I cannot get 16 hours teaching per week.
    Perhaps I should have been a footballer or a banker?!
  18. zakbrown1900

    zakbrown1900 New commenter

    Sorry to hear about your experiences against the odds and Hilary.

    I think the Wolf review was brilliant and it is about time that FE lecturers are treated equal to teachers. Just hope the government goes ahead and implements this. I applied for one teaching agency (Protocol Ed) and in the interview they asked me my qualifications and experience. I said a BSc (Hons), PGCE FE, MSc and a number of years teaching experience in schools and colleges. They said could not work as a supply teacher as I am not qualified due to not having QTS.....couldn't believe it. I told them I was a supply teacher for a year and the interviewer told me they must have broken the law - what a joke! I can teach A levels but not GCSEs where is the logic in that.

    I hope it will all work out for you in the future. I certainly feel that I made a massive mistake going into FE.

  19. I read so much crud from all kinds of people.
    But I'm not so sure about this reflection and your previous posts.
    I'm not so certain you have made a mistake.
    Maybe you should hang on in here for a while.
    There is a certain capriciousness in catching ships.
    But I hope you catch yours.

  20. Mitochondria

    Mitochondria New commenter

    Wow, reading this is sucking all the enthusiasm out of me! I have a stage 3 (final) interview at UEL on tuesday morning, and after reading most of the comments on the TES FE forum, I may not actually accept if they make me an offer!
    I'm currently working at a uni within London as an Hourly Paid Lecturer, which I absolutely love. But, in the current climate, funding is short and i may not be taken on on a full-time basis since i don't have a PhD. I thought doing a PGCE PCET would help with lecturing, whether that's in a FE college or not. Having read a lot of messages on here, all is not as rosy as it seems!
    My options atm are:
    PhD...if i get funding (2011).
    PGCE PCET (2011)
    MSc Radiotherapy (but starts in 2012)
    I am so, so very confused. :-(

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