Forth Valley College staff fear for their lecturer jobs

Potential “cost cutting” moves which could see 30 lecturing posts axed at Forth Valley College (FVC) have raised serious concerns among staff and teaching unions.

By The Newsroom
Wednesday, 4th March 2020, 3:48 pm

The Educational Institute of Scotland (EIS), the country’s largest union for teachers and lecturers, is actively fighting plans regarding the potential removal of college lecturers from the delivery of vocational education in parts of Scotland.

For FVC this would result in the redundancy of over 30 lecturing jobs, with the college set to introduce new “instructor-assessor” roles.

A FVC employee, who did not want to be named, said: “We feel the consultation has not really been dealt with properly. A lot of it is being glossed over. We are being told to apply for this new role of instructor assessor but we don’t have information on what the job entails.

“We have friends at other colleges who are watching this very closely. What’s happening here is they are undermining and undervaluing vocational qualifications.”

According to the EIS, the proposals will see lecturers who currently deliver vocational education in subjects like hairdressing, care, construction and practical engineering, facing the prospect of losing their jobs.

The EIS stated it will continue to engage in negotiations with Forth Valley College and is urging it to re-consider the proposals.

Pam Currie, EIS-FELA president, said: “These lecturers are skilled not only in their own trades but as professionals who are trained in the planning, delivery and assessment of education to a diverse student population.

“These plans represent an attack not only on the teaching staff at Forth Valley College but on the quality of the educational provision for learners in the Falkirk community.

“The stated remit of instructor-assessor is almost indistinguishable from that of a lecturer but these new posts will be paid well below the standard rate and will be exempt from requirements to undertake a teaching qualification within two years of starting in post.

“Crucially, there will no requirement for postholders to comply with the Professional Standards in place for college lecturers. With increased levels of class contact time, there will be little or no time in the working week for preparation, marking and the array of quality assurance and professional development tasks lecturers undertake.

“This will have a disastrous impact on the learning experience and the provision of vocational and skills-based education.”

EIS general secretary Larry Flanagan said: “This is a distressing time for all staff affected by these proposals. They want to know their jobs are secure and that they can continue to deliver a high-quality education to their students – whether vocational or academic.

“Further education lecturers play a vital role in preparing students for the world of work and in ensuring the skills taught meet industry requirements. If these proposals are implemented, we could see vocational education being de-skilled with the role of lecturers being removed.

“This can only damage the quality of educational standards across Scotland’s colleges and may lead to employers considering whether to take their business elsewhere.”

FVC stated the new instructor assessor role will be a benefit to the college, its staff and its students.

A college spokesperson said: “Forth Valley College continues to be one of the leading colleges in Scotland and we achieve this by constantly evolving to ensure we deliver the right learning at the right time and in the right place.

“The student experience is at the heart of everything we do and we have a clear vision which meets the needs of our future learners, our stakeholders and the wider Forth Valley region.

“In order to achieve this, it is essential our structure, curriculum and operational flexibility are fit-for-purpose and enable us to continue to offer the very best in education and training.

“In developing a workforce of the future, it is essential we reform, reshape and rebuild our current delivery model so we are able to deliver a wider range of innovative and progressive services.

“Within curriculum and commercial delivery, we already have a range of roles which have been developed over a number of years including work-based assessors, VQ assessors,

STEM instructors, commercial trainers, lecturers, front of house trainers and chef trainers.

“Recognising one size does not fit all, the proposal to introduce instructor assessors builds on that portfolio of roles to support our growth and to maintain our competitive edge.

“As part of national bargaining, roles will be independently job evaluated in line with their peers, a system recognised as one of the fairest and most equitable ways of allocating pay.

“In addition to creating posts that will secure jobs going forward, we are conserving salaries to manage the change. The instructor assessor role will be a learner facing role which will enable us to provide a more effective learning and teaching delivery model.

“It will also aim to enhance learners’ industry related experience and promote creative learning within our programmes through the introduction of appropriately skilled, qualified and experienced post holders.

“This role will not only allow us to better meet the needs of employers and key stakeholders, we believe it will also ensure we have the most effective workforce offering the highest quality learning in a college that is financially stable for the future.

“We recognise any change can be challenging. However, we are committed to managing this process in consultation with staff whilst also delivering on our strategy and purpose to introduce targeted, dynamic, delivery opportunities to drive growth going forward.

“Our approach with our staff from the beginning has been one of open honest dialogue with clear rationale and two way feedback, and we are committed to continuing this and ensuring staff are given fact based information.

“As always, our learners are a key priority and we must be responsive to their needs.”