AoC delays FE teacher pay recommendation for second year in a row 

FE pay deal could take ‘months’ as AoC waits for schoolteacher pay report

FE pay deal could take ‘months’ as AoC waits for schoolteacher pay report

The Association of Colleges will hold off on making a pay recommendation for FE staff again this year until the school teacher pay review is published.

Unions, who were told about the decision in a meeting with the membership body yesterday, warned that this is likely to delay vital negotiations with individual colleges for months.

The AoC deployed the same tactic last year when the body refused to make a pay recommendation unless government coughed up extra money so colleges could make “a meaningful offer” to staff.

The move was followed by an announcement in June of additional 16 to 19 funding of £470 million in total to be dished out over the next two academic years: £185 million in 2023/24 and £285 million in 2024/25.

Unions have said their pay demands for 2024/25 can be funded by this additional funding.

It took until September for the AoC to make a 6.5 per cent pay rise to colleges last year, mirroring the schoolteacher pay rise recommendation by the arms-length School Teachers Review Body (STRB) in July.

AoC chief executive David Hughes said: “Last year, the government was able to find additional funding to ensure that the pay gap between school and college teachers did not get even wider, and we want to give them the chance to do so again this year. Therefore, we will not be making a recommendation until the STRB report has been published.” 

FE pay ‘stagnant too long’

Talks between the AoC and a group of five trade unions began this week following the unions’ pay claim for 2024/25 submitted in March.

The National Joint Forum of unions representing Unite, UCU, Unison, GMB and the National Education Union demanded a 10 per cent pay rise for FE staff next year, or a £3,000 salary increase, to keep up with the pace of inflation.

The pay demand is above the 3.2 per cent consumer price index and 4.3 per cent retail price index inflation rate in the year to March 2024.

The AoC said at the time that unions should “focus their energies” on demanding the government raise the funding rates which haven’t kept up with inflation.

The pay claim also called for a £30,000 minimum starting salary for FE lecturers, matching schools, and urged college bosses to address the 40 per cent real terms pay decline for FE staff since 2009/10 and the “steep” rises in the cost of living.

Unions maintained some demands from last year such as colleges having class size recommendations, a “national policy on the delivery of guided learning hours” and to have a binding national pay agreement.

New claims include a demand for staff to have two mental health days per year and a commitment to close gender, ethnic and disability pay gaps.

Hughes said: “AoC met with the college staff unions on Monday 20 May to begin pay negotiations for 2024/25. There is strong agreement between employer and staff representatives on the need to improve pay in the FE sector, and AoC has been campaigning consistently for the pay gap between school and FE teachers to be eradicated.”

A UCU spokesperson said: “Pay across the FE sector has been stagnant for far too long which is why we urgently need a new deal for FE. Whilst it is important for AoC to attempt to source further additional funding to resolve the pay gap between school and college teachers, waiting to see what the teachers’ pay review board recommends could mean we are waiting for months, and our members need a pay rise now.

“Our claim is about more than pay. We need binding national outcomes in FE just as there are for schools and sixth forms across England.”

Knock on effect in FE of school teacher pay delay

The AoC claimed the decision to delay its pay recommendation was due to its campaign to eradicate the pay gap between school and FE teachers.

This year’s STRB report has not yet been released by the government, sparking concern from teachers’ unions. 

Teacher union NASUWT said last week that it fears ministers will delay the report for as long as possible as a general election draws closer this year.

“The pay review body is not the property of the education secretary,” said Dr Patrick Roach, NASUWT general secretary. “Teachers and employers have a right to know immediately the opinions and recommendations of the School Teachers Review Body, without interference from ministers.”

In previous years, the pay report has not been published until late July.

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