Sixth Form College Dispute
The NEU is in dispute with the Secretary of State in relation to the pay, working conditions and security of employment of NEU members in the sixth form sector, and in particular the detrimental effets on these of the cuts in college funding since 2010.
The NEU has asked the Secretary of State to address this by increasing the funding rate per student as proposed by the Raise the Rate campaign to which the NEU is a signatory, and by paying the Teachers' Pay Grant to all sixth form colleges in order to support an adequate pay increase. He has declined to take these steps.
The impact on pay
Teachers and support staff in sixth form colleges have suffered a substantial real terms cut in the value of their pay since 2010. Their pay has also fallen back compared to other workers. Now the parity for sixth form college teachers with schools has been lost as well.
The Secretary of State's decision to provide the Teachers' Pay Grant only to those colleges with academy status was one of the main reasons why the NEU and SFCA could not reach a 2018 pay agreement for teachers, maintaining pay parity with schools.
The impact on working conditions - affecting staff, students and the sector
Sixth form colleges suffered a 22% reduction in real terms funding between 2010/11 and 2016/17 - deeper cuts than any other group of education institutions. During this period, there was a
15% reduction in teaching staff numbers despite a 6% increase in the number of students.
The consequences of the funding cuts are that:
• SFCs are teaching students in larger classes, increasing teachers' workload significantly,
• there have been significant cuts in support staff posts,
• teachers' contact time has been increased, and
• staff training budgets have been reduced.
All NEU members in sixth form colleges have been balloted to take strike action. Along with 23 other sixth form colleges nationally, WQE and Gateway Colleges in Leicester both achieved the required threshold to take action, but, unfortunately, the first day of strike action took place on Monday 14th October, Leicester's October half term break. However, the second day of action took place on November 5th with all entrances at both colleges picketed. There are now over 170 NEU members at WQE1 and Gateway College combined and the members are solid in their resolve. As one member on a picket line said to me, 'This isn't about us and our pay. This is about the students and the cuts that are damaging their education'. The next strike day is on 20th November.