AoC raises college staff pay recommendation – but only to 2.25%

The recommendation is well below the call from unions for a 10% rise

The recommendation is well below the call from unions for a 10% rise

26 May 2022, 20:23

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College staff should be given a 2.25 per cent pay rise next year, the Association for Colleges has recommended.

This is the highest pay recommendation since 2014, but well below the call from unions for a 10 per cent rise.

The joint trade unions – University and College Union, National Education Union, Unison, Unite and GMB – have rejected the offer, calling it “insulting”.

AoC, which negotiates with unions representing staff on behalf of college, said it recognises that a 2.25 per cent salary increase is not sufficient to address the impact of the cost-of-living crisis.

But the association said it could not recommend a higher rate for 2022/23 due to the “enormous funding pressures” facing colleges amid surging inflation.

The AoC and the unions are set to reconvene in June to continue talks.

‘Colleges want to pay their staff more’

AoC chief executive David Hughes wrote to education secretary Nadhim Zahawi earlier this week to plead for emergency funding so that colleges can increase their pay offer.

After making a 2.25 per cent pay recommendation, Hughes said: “Colleges want to pay their staff more, and they absolutely would if they could, but it is clear from discussions last week that they are experiencing enormous challenges dealing with inflation, and particularly spiralling energy prices, as well as increases in national insurance and pension contributions and other costs.

“The impact of this is that pay – which has lagged for many years behind schools and industry – is now resulting in major difficulties in recruiting and retaining the people needed to even maintain delivery, let alone grow the offer.”

He added: “Colleges are reeling from a decade of cuts and are now being hit by soaring inflation which has eaten away at any recent uptick in funding.”

The gap between school and college teachers currently stands at around £9,000.

The AoC has repeatedly recommended a 1 per cent pay increase for staff over the past five years much to the protest of unions which have in turn launched numerous strikes.

Last year’s spending review announced that the DfE will be investing an extra £1.6 billion in 16-to-19 education and training by 2024/25, compared with the 2021/22 financial year. This includes an up-front cash boost which will see the rate of funding per student boosted by over 8 per cent in 2022/23.

Hughes said these funding decisions for 2022/23 assume 2 per cent inflation for 16-18 courses and 0 per cent for everything else (adult education, apprenticeships and higher education) which is some way off the current 9 per cent inflation.

But after receiving this latest pay offer, the joint unions said: “The employer body has chosen not to use significant increases in core central government 16 – 19 funding to invest in college staff, despite unions campaigning alongside AoC to secure it.

“The unions have unequivocally rejected the offer from AoC and informed the employer body that they plan to move to ballot.  

“AoC have been encouraged to return with a much improved offer to ensure college staff are not forced to take industrial action this Autumn term. The unions agree that they will continue to engage in negotiations while making plans for action.”

Gerry McDonald, chief executive of New City College, who leads discussions on behalf of colleges, said: “We fully recognise the financial difficulties faced by staff across the sector alongside the funding crisis of the sector itself.

“I am pleased that both sides have agreed to continue face to face talks in June to build upon the offer. We have also made a commitment to strengthen recommendations regarding the Living Wage and to workload.”

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  1. If money is so tight, direct available funds towards those at the bottom end of pay scales.

    Inflation is proven beyond doubt to disproportionately affect those less well off, so a fixed percentage is inherently unfair. No increase or bonusses for the best paid would allow a better % increase for those who are struggling.

    If AOC can’t negotiate increased funding, nor come up with fairer solutions then they are ineffective for the majority of staff…

    It’s a well trodden path saying that FE teacher pay lags behind school teacher pay and trying to look as though you are fighting on behalf of the low paid. For balance, how about questioning whether FE leader pay lags behind school leader pay…

  2. Pinda

    Not sure how much the AoC costs to run but it can’t be cheap. For example, it employs ex-senior management. This is unaffordable when we’ve cuts to living standards and to educational outcomes for students.

    The AoC should be disbanded and the money used to fund it used instea to pay hard working front-line staff in FE. We deserve better.

    I know there will be staff who will be pushed to use foodbanks. I also know staff who have children in FE who will have to decide whether to eat or heat.