Saturday, 10 May 2014

Leaving F.E.

Redundancy. It's an awful word isn't it. Re - DUN - dant. You are DUN, done and finished.

The causes of redundancy are multiple, but in F.E. it's practically become a condition of employment; contracts should say "we guarantee to employ you until such time as Funding Cuts blow a black hole in the space/time continuum of our Curriculum Plans and our nervousness about the future prevent it", that would be more honest.

Colleges employ people based on Curriculum Planning, months ahead of the actual need. So when plans change, and you are still in your first year, with no legal rights to employment, compensation or even it seems time off to look for new employment, what do you do?

Let's be clear on this; colleges can take you on based on retrospective analysis of their local market, employ you, make you redundant, fail to compensate you, refuse to give you time off to search for another job and expect you to turn up every day of your remaining employment, fresh faced, perky and happy to help in the search for someone to take on the lower paid, lower status and frankly insulting role you turned down when they offered it as a sop to salve their conscience when penny pinching.

Of course, you may think that being offered such a role, any role, is better than being tossed out without a role, and for those to whom that is happening, it may well be true. But is a job, any job, a better option than being downgraded?


People are employed on the basis of their knowledge, reputation and experience. They are employed on the basis of sound market requirements, demand and, one would hope, forensic, strategic analysis of the future based on accurate data.

If they are truly doing this properly; planning, marketing and strategically working with the local community, then why are so many now shedding staff with less than one years service quicker than a dog sheds its summer coat?

The AoC reports that the Department for Education could face a black hole of some £600 million in its 2015 budget, rising to £4.6 billion by 2018-19, according to a report by the Association of Colleges.  

Michael Gove had raided £400m from a fund that guarantees school places for pupils in order to plug a massive financial "black hole" in his free schools programme according to a report in the Guardian.

 An alternative is to put people on Zero Hours contracts, employ them when needed, drop them when not. Again though, is this a fair alternative?


F.E. has for too long been at the mercy of funding cuts, changes to allowed curriculum, threats from external providers etc, as well as the traditional Sixth Forms and Apprenticeships. F.E. has sung, danced, spun plates, walked the HighWire, pulled rabbits from hats and sausages from its nose; to no avail.

F.E. has invested abroad, taken on 14 year olds, adults, broken into H.E., employer links, fought back in every way possible and we're still having to blow that horn and sound the retreat back to the trenches, dragging our wounded behind us.

Is this really the way to run a multi-million pound business; one that develops skilled workers for the future prosperity of our country, gets NEETS back into education, retrains adults and employs thousands of people?


Maybe, just maybe, the time has come to invest in what matters; staff and students. Stop tryying to spread the butter so thin it is a tasteless experience. Stop trying to be all things to all men. Stop trying to plan in markets you don't quite understand. Stop throwing away skilled staff and opportunities for great learning for our students.

Maybe, it's time for the Govenment, those who hold the purse strings to stop putting conditions on every single movement, and allow us the luxury of a little 'grown up' thinking. Maybe it's time for F.E. to stop thinking about World Domination and start thinking about its Core Market again.

Learn to plan effectively, stop making knee jerk reactions to every headline, spend parsimoniously, value what you have and think about what is truly good in your establishment.

Value that; learn that and F.E. will be a better place for us all. The danger is that without those actions, the current and predicted Funding Cuts, may make F.E. redundant in its entirety; not just its staff.

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