Something came through one of my social media feeds earlier today which had me thinking about teaching in the FE sector including the way funding works, all of us that have worked in that sector understand the pressures that are put on by management, especially when it comes time for the big “O” to come and visit you again. So obviously, the management of the college want as many people on the courses as possible. The issue here is when do you sacrifice quantity for quality. At some point, you have got to get past the point of taking everyone with a pulse on the courses just to inflate recruitment numbers.
Let us look at some hard facts here, what is the use of having great recruitment if you are setting the students up to fail? So, what you end up doing is just to keep them for your retention and achievement stats and let them drift along in the hope that they will somehow scrape through the course. I mean to hell with giving them a well-rounded education, it is all to do with funding. Yes, I know college managers would say to me that less funding means fewer jobs so we either take on students with less ability or we have less staff to teach the students.
Why is the base level of the students coming from school to FE colleges so low? I am not a school teacher and I have always taught in the FE sector so I would not attempt to second guess why this is happening but surely something needs to be done to improve the transition from the national curriculum to further education. You could have lower level courses run more often which would then give you a stepping stone to level one and two main are courses, though should there be a need to have three entry levels of course before you progress to a level one course, of course not. As we know most courses may have entry three as one year stepping stone to your main course. We all know though that more likely that you will have students put on level one courses that are not ready for the work that is required to achieve this.
Now let us move on to the staff that must teach on these courses, you know as a teacher you are going to have students on your course that are at completely different ends of the ability scale. So, you are putting together your scheme of work at the beginning of the year knowing full well that some of the work is going to leave the best students bored and the less able students completely lost, you need to find a happy medium, right? So, let us go for that great “D” word, “which D word?” I hear you ask, differentiation, of course, you know the of that college managers and OFSTED inspectors love. How far do you take it? Do I have to plan and teach four different lessons for the ability ranges of my group? Is it any wonder that teachers are quitting FE in droves.
Something must be done with the way FE is funded to make it easier to get recruitment done at the correct level, so you have classes of similar ability and you are not recruiting people just to make up the numbers. This may prompt things to change in schools so that basic things are not being re-taught to lower ability students. Until something is done about this you will get more and more students becoming achievement numbers rather than a student that leaves with a well-rounded subject knowledge and the knock-on effect will be more and more staff going off with stress and ultimately leaving the profession.
Why kill yourself working 80 hours per week under the current FE template when you can move into various other areas like corporate training where at least you get to do what you trained for and teach your clients something without the pressures of recruitment, retention and Achievement figures.