A teaching career in the Further Education sector offers flexible hours, a generous holiday allowance and diverse working environments. Here we look at the working conditions you can expect to find in the FE sector as a teacher, lecturer or tutor.
Flexible working hours attract many teachers to FE, who find the job often fits around other commitments. Although workloads can be heavy, FE teachers can work full-time, part-time, evenings or on a casual, hourly basis. Your working hours will be largely dependent on the FE environment you are teaching in and the type of contract you have with your employer. However, as a general rule you can expect the following working patterns:
- Permanent, full-time FE teaching staff: Usually 37 hours per week, depending on the subject. There is usually a weekly limit of 24 teaching or ‘contact hours.’ The remaining hours will be spent lesson planning, attending meetings, marking and dealing with students’ issues. There may also be some evening classes.
- Permanent, part-time teaching staff (also known as ‘fractional roles’): Work a portion of a full-time teacher’s hours, generally around 18 hours per week or less. Part-time FE staff may also teach regular classes in the evening.
- Hourly Contracts: FE teachers who are employed on a temporary or hourly contract will have an agreement with their employer as to how many hours they work per week.
The working day for a full-time FE teacher usually starts at 8am and ends around 4-5pm. Extra hours are required for lesson planning, marking and attending meetings and open evenings, especially during term time.
There is no national pay scale for FE teachers, however The University College Union (UCU) publishes a recommended pay framework. Individual colleges and FE providers choose whether to follow these guidelines.
Rates for FE teaching staff vary according to qualifications, experience and type of contract. In general, those considering a teaching career can expect to find the following pay scales in the FE sector:
- Unqualified FE teacher (full-time): between £18,000 and £21,575 p.a.
- Qualified FE teacher (full-time): between around £23,000 and £35,000 p.a. Pay scale depends on teaching and industrial experience, qualifications and subject demand. Higher rates are possible for senior teachers who take on extra responsibilities.
- Hourly rates: Qualified and unqualified FE teachers employed on a casual, temporary or sessional hourly rate can expect to receive between £15 to £30 per hour, depending on the role, qualifications and experience.
- Leadership and Management roles (Head of department, college Principals): between £33,000 and in excess of £80,000 p.a., often depending on the size of institution.
Rates for Northern Ireland, Wales and Scotland may vary. For more information, consult the University and College Union website or the Educational Institute of Scotland here . FE teachers working in London may also get an additional allowance.
It is worth checking what pay scale your potential employer offers and whether you can be awarded increases or incremental points for experience and/or for taking on additional responsibilities.
The FE sector encompasses colleges, training organisations, charities, adult and community learning, the armed forces and offender learning centres, to name a few. Therefore, you could find yourself teaching in a classroom, workshop, laboratory, student’s workplace, prison, community centre or even army barracks. The variety of working environments in FE offers an exciting and challenging career, where no two days are the same.
Some FE teachers work across many institutions which may involve moving between numerous environments throughout the week. So bear in mind that having your own mode of transport and a driving licence may be essential. It’s also worth checking if mileage can be claimed back for work-related journeys.
Depending on your contract and type of role, full-time FE teachers are generally entitled to around 37 days’ paid holiday per year, plus bank holidays. There is considerable variation in the amount of paid holiday according to different colleges and institutions and some permanent teaching staff may receive up to 60 days per year. Holiday entitlement varies according to whether you are part-time, full-time or receive a casual, hourly pay rate, which often has holiday pay built in. Holiday is usually required to be taken outside of term time for colleges, according to each institution’s academic calendar. Many contracts allow for a minimum four weeks’ consecutive leave to be taken over the summer.
If you work in Further Education in England and Wales, it is likely you will be covered by the Teachers' Pension Scheme (TPS) or a Local Government Pension Scheme (LGPS). There are similar arrangements for teachers in Northern Ireland and Scotland. Access to pension schemes varies between institutions so you should check what policy your employer adheres to. Most pension schemes make provision for those in part-time or hourly paid employment.
Across the education sector there are currently several different schemes which vary between institutions and the type of employment. You can find more information about pensions in the education sector at the University and College Union website here.
Your entitlement to sick leave and pay as an FE teacher depends on whether you have a permanent contract, your years of service or if you are employed on a casual or hourly basis, so it is wise to check with your employer as to their regulations on sick leave and pay. The Association of Teachers and Lecturers (ATL) have agreed with the Association of Colleges on national guidelines for recommended minimum standards regarding sick leave in FE. You can find it here.
Once you have gained employment, some teaching experience and relevant qualifications in the FE sector, there are a number of career progression routes you can take. If you are starting out on a casual or temporary contract the next step would be to gain permanent employment at a college or FE training provider. You would then be able to move up the ladder to become an advanced or senior teacher, head of department or manager. Fractional teachers can also supplement their income with additional private tutoring or exam assessment marking, with some using their skills as training consultants. Taking on additional non-teaching responsibilities, such as being involved in pastoral care or admissions, can help move your career upwards while also bringing extra monetary rewards. Bear in mind that FE management posts may require you to pursue further professional or business qualifications, such as an NVQ or MBA.