FE sector defies pressure

January 14, 2000

Managers and teachers in further education are cooperating better than ever, despite massive changes in their sector.

Research funded by the Economic and Social Research Council found teachers had retained their professionalism in the face of "speedy" change.

Principals, senior and middle managers, governors and lecturers in five colleges were interviewed.

Staff morale fell following incorporation in 1993, when colleges were made independent of local authority control. There was a high turnover of staff, financial cuts, growing casualisation of teachers and costly marketing.

Modern teaching methods, learning and managing associated with "co-operation, sharing and inclusivity" are evolving. Lecturers and managers have more in common than is supposed by the media, in literature and in policy debate.

Study author Denis Gleeson, of Warwick University, said: "It was surprising to see teachers retaining their professionalism and pride against the odds."

He found problems in the funding of colleges. "Severe funding constraints associated with pressure on staffing, resources, pay and conditions constantly put strain on agreement-making" between teachers and managers.

There were tensions between public-sector values and the cost-cutting measures of the new managerialism. Researchers agreed that the further education sector has been placed under more pressure than any other part of the public sector in terms of funding and its industrial relations record, so that it could be forced to accept an "inclusive approach, willingly or not".

The report hints that where staff are overworked and funding is low, they may be co-operating more easily in the interests of time and self-preservation.

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