8 key findings from DfE’s first FE workforce data release

The stats were promised in the Skills for Jobs white paper

The stats were promised in the Skills for Jobs white paper

31 Aug 2023, 16:57

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Underrepresentation of ethnic minority leaders, gender pay gaps, the size of vacancy rates and scale of governors serving for over 10 years have been revealed in new FE workforce data.

The 2021 Skills for Jobs white paper set out Department for Education plans to introduce a mandatory, comprehensive data collection on the FE workforce, the same as they do with schools and higher education.

The first release, published today, covers the 2021/22 academic year and includes data from over 1,250 general FE colleges, sixth form colleges and private training providers.

Here’s what you need to know…

9 in 10 FE leaders are white

In 2021/22, 18.9 per cent of the further education workforce identified as belonging to an ethnic minority group – which is around the same proportion as the ethnic minority population in England and Wales (18.3 per cent).

But ethnic minorities are not equally represented at leadership positions.

In general FE colleges, just 8.4 per cent of leaders are non-white, compared to 7.9 per cent in sixth form colleges and 6.2 per cent in private training providers.

Proportion of white staff by job role

Sixth form college teachers earn almost £10k more than GFEs

The median average annual salary for teaching staff in 2021/22 was £33,400 in general FE colleges, compared to £42,100 in sixth form colleges.

Over in private training providers, teachers are paid £28,100 a year on average.

The median salary for leaders in both general FE colleges and sixth form colleges was around £65,000, while leaders in private providers earn on average £50,000 a year.

Comparing those figures to schools, data shows that as of November 2022, the average school classroom teacher’s salary was £40,251. Meanwhile, school leader average pay was £70,831.

More women in the sector…

There are an estimated 205,200 people working in FE – 65.6 per cent of which are female.

General FE colleges had a higher proportion of female “leaders” (55.6 per cent), compared to sixth form colleges (49.3 per cent) and private providers (51.7 per cent).

Three out of every five (60.2 per cent) FE teachers are female, which is similar to the 61 per cent of learners participating in FE and skills in 2021/22 who were female.

The data also shows 0.4 per cent of the FE workforce “identifies in another way”, while 6.5 per cent preferred not to identify their gender.

…but men are paid more

The data shows that males earn more on average than females in almost all areas of the FE workforce and all provider types.

Female leaders in general FE colleges earn on average £64,011 compared to £66,569 for males.

And female general FE college teachers earn £32,445 on average compared to £34,174 for males.

Pay differs by region and subject

If you’re an FE teacher in London you’ll earn more than all other areas of the country, where the average salary is £37,697, followed by the West Midlands where the average salary is £36,155.

The lowest average FE teacher salary is paid in Yorkshire and the Humber – £30,400.

There was a £12,800 (47 per cent) difference between the highest and lowest paid average salary by subject.

Teaching staff teaching geography as their main subject had the highest median annual salary of £40,100, while teaching staff teaching animal care as their main subject had the lowest median annual salary of £27,300.

5.4 per 100 teaching position vacant

Colleges and private providers have found it increasingly difficult in recent years to recruit and retain teachers, as they struggle to compete with salaries offered both in industry and schools.

By the end of 2021/22, the DfE’s data shows that 5.4 per 100 teaching positions were vacant across the sector.

Sixth form colleges (1.4 per 100 positions) had the lowest unfilled vacancy rate for teaching staff and other public funded providers the highest (6.3 per 100).

General FE colleges had an unfilled vacancy rate for teaching staff of 1.4 per 100 positions, while private providers had 4.5 per 100 positions.

By region, the highest unfilled teaching vacancy rate for general FE colleges was in Yorkshire and The Humber (8.5 per 100), and for sixth form colleges, was in the West Midlands (3.8 per 100).

There was also 2.6 per 100 management and leadership positions vacant by the end of 2021/22.

Scale of governors serving for over 10 years revealed

There were 3,000 governors serving in general FE colleges in 2021/22, and around 800 in sixth form colleges.

In December, FE Commissioner Shelagh Legrave said the number of governors who are “too comfortable” as they have served more than 10 years was a key issue for her, but figures to aid this concern were not released.

The FE governance guide says in the section on Terms of office (under Recruiting and developing governors): “All the governance codes used by corporations emphasise the value of board membership being refreshed at intervals.”

Today’s data shows that 5.3 per cent of governors in general FE colleges have served for nine to 12 years, while 3.7 per cent had served for over 12 years.

Meanwhile, 8.3 per cent of governors have served in sixth form colleges for nine to 12 years, and 9.7 per cent have served for over 12 years.

In terms of characteristics, 55 per cent of governors were male and 17.5 per cent were from an ethnic minority group.

Zero hour contracts more common in GFEs

In the 2021/22 academic year, 81.9 per cent of the whole FE workforce had permanent contracts.

Breaking this down by provider type, just over 20 per cent of workers in general FE colleges were on a zero hour or variable contract, compared to 17 per cent in sixth form colleges, and 7 per cent in private providers.

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