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Friday, 17 May, 2002, 16:43 GMT 17:43 UK
A lecturer's lot
FE college
It's a hard life, being a further education lecturer
As further education lecturers vote in favour of a two-day strike over pay later this month, BBC News Online asks one lecturer what the concerns are.

Maureen O'Mara has been working as a further education lecturer for 10 years - her salary is just over 20,000 a year.

A newly qualified classroom teacher, though, will receive a starting salary of 20,733 inside London and 17,628 outside the capital.

This is the gripe for FE lecturers - they say their pay is out of kilter with teachers, and with other professions.

"It's not very much," says Maureen.

"And that's fairly reflective of what's going on in the industry.

"People are feeling pretty aggrieved when they compare themselves with teachers."

Vocational learning

Maureen says plans by the government to encourage 14 year olds to follow a vocational plan of education will only aggravate the resentment.

Maureen O'Mara
Maureen stays on for the love of the job
"Why would someone stay in FE if they're going to get a better career structure and higher pay in schools?"

Maureen's employer - Grantham College - pays in line with what the Association of Colleges (AoC) recommends, but other colleges simply cannot afford to meet these levels.

And, since colleges came out of local authority control in the early 1990s, college management teams can effectively pay what they like.

"Quite a lot of this is to do with core funding," says Maureen.

In other words, the government is not financing the sector sufficiently.

Many responsibilities

While Maureen's salary is similar to that of a new qualified teacher with no added responsibilities, her job carries significant stress.

She spends 24 hours a week teaching, and the nature of the sector means this may often mean finishing at 9pm.

As course leader for her subject, she has to prove to the exam boards that the course at the college is of a suitable standard.

This involves a considerable amount of work, she says, such as making sure tutors' assignments meet requirements.

She is also responsible for interviewing prospective students and would typically be the first port of call if students were unhappy about any aspect of their course.

All in all Maureen estimates she clocks up an average of 50 to 60 hours a week, with 35 days holiday, plus bank holidays.

Financial struggle

It has been difficult for Maureen financially, especially as a single parent.

"When my son was at home - he's grown up now - it was very difficult.

"We didn't take many holidays, we couldn't afford to go away.

"I live in a modest two-bedroom house and I drive a fairly old car."

Student diversity

So why does Maureen bother with it at all?

"I love working with the students I have.

"It's the diversity of students we get - they range from 16 year olds to adults."

Maureen is also a firm believer in the second chances that colleges can offer.

She herself left school at 15 and benefited from the second chance the sector was able to offer her.

But has she ever even considered channelling her skills into the schools sector?

"I've not been tempted towards schools yet - I won't say I never will though!"

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See also:

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