FE college staff consider quitting as workloads and stress levels rise

Seven-in-ten further education (FE) college staff working in England have considered leaving the sector, as workloads rise and many suffer from stress, according to a poll by the National Education Union (NEU).

Responding to a poll of FE college staff, a lecturer in the North West said: “I burst into tears over making a mistake. I'm ridiculously overworked with the new specifications and subjects new to me that I'm teaching this year.”

And a departmental manager from the North East said they had considered leaving the FE sector because they: “can't cope with the workload, and hate seeing my team suffer from the effects of their ridiculous workloads.”

Eighty per cent of respondents said their workload has increased over the last 12 months. Sixty-two per cent said this increase was because there are fewer staff in their workplace, 35% said they had to teach more hours, 34% had new subject areas to teach and 31% had more classes to teach.

Half (49.32%) work over seven hours more than they are contracted to each week – the equivalent of an extra day a week - with 88% saying they have to work extra hours because their workload demands it, and 37% saying it is expected of them.

A lecturer from the South East said: “I work until 12pm most evenings and work at least half a day on Saturday and Sunday.”

A lecturer from the Midlands said: “I have taken on areas of teaching that I have not worked in before. This is a development opportunity for me but also a huge amount of unpaid work.”

In these circumstances, it is not surprising that 40% (39.55%) have discussed stress with a health professional while working in the FE sector, or that 12.4% have been signed off with stress. A further 16.44% believe they are suffering with stress, but haven’t discussed it with a health professional.

A lecturer from the North East said they suffer: “too much stress with no appreciation, even though I really enjoy teaching. But the paperwork has killed the enjoyment. I’d like to spend more time with students to support them and see them progress. The quality in education has decreased and it's treated as a business now as more students passing generates more money.”

FE college staff said the things that most worried them about working in the sector were concerns about their job security (25.67%), working conditions (24.06%) and pay (15.31%).

Dr Mary Bousted, joint general secretary of the National Education Union, said: “It is not surprising that so many FE college staff have considered leaving – they have faced huge turmoil in the sector with the area reviews and are suffering from chronic overwork and under-pay. For too long FE colleges have been the poor relatives in education, paid little attention by Government and starved of funding. This cannot continue. The Government needs to recognise the vital role FE colleges play in developing a skilled workforce, educating 62% of 16-18 year olds and adults who are upskilling and reskilling.

“The National Education Union is running an EFFECTIVE EDUCATION project to help FE staff achieve sustainable workloads and to campaign for better funding for the FE sector. This aims to raise awareness of the important work FE colleges have in developing a skilled workforce for the post-Brexit economy.”

ENDS

Survey stats:

The National Education Union surveyed 229 staff working in the FE sector in England in March 2018. Numbers of respondents are in brackets.

Have you considered leaving the sector?

Yes

70.00%

(140)

No

19.00%

(38)

Unsure

11.00%

(22)

Total answered

200

 

Total skipped

29

 

 

What worries you most about working in FE?

Job security

25.67%

(48)

Pay

15.31%

(30)

Conditions of working

24.06%

(45)

Policy change

10.33%

(19)

Management

8.51%

(16)

Changes to job

2.12%

(4)

Low status

7.54%

(15)

Conflict with colleagues

7.45%

(14)

Total answered

227

 

Total skipped

2

 

 

Over the last 12 months, has your personal workload:

Increased

80.00%

(172)

   

Decreased

1.40%

(3)

   

Stayed the same

18.60%

(40)

   

Total answered

215

 

 

 

Total skipped

14

 

 

 

 

Can you say what has caused this increase?

Fewer staff

61.74%

(92)

More staff

4.03%

(6)

More classes to teach

30.87%

(46)

More hours to teach

34.90%

(52)

New areas to teach

34.23%

(51)

I have been told funding changes

20.81%

(31)

I have been told budget priorities within the college

26.17%

(39)

Total answered

149

 

Total skipped

80

 

 

Have you ever discussed stress with a health professional during your employment in the FE sector?

Yes

20.89%

(47)

Yes. I was signed off work with stress

12.44%

(28)

Yes. I was signed off work, but stress was not given as a cause

6.22%

(14)

No

44.00%

(99)

No, but I believe I am suffering from stress

16.44%

(37)

Total answered

225

 

Total skipped

4

 

 

How many extra hours over your weekly contracted hours do you regularly work per week?

None

9.05%

(20)

1-3 hours

17.65%

(39)

4-6 hours

23.98%

(53)

7-10 hours

19.91%

(44)

11 hours and over

29.41%

(65)

Total answered

221

 

Total skipped

8

 

 

If you work extra hours is it because:

Your college demands that you do

7.25%

(15)

Your workload demands it

87.44%

(181)

You take on extra work because you want to

15.94%

(33)

It is expected that you do

36.71%

(76)

Total answered

207

 

Total skipped

22

 

 

Press release
25 June 2018