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In the last few months, there has been a series of strikes by teachers in further education colleges across England over pay and conditions, and more strikes look set to impact the post-16 education sector this year. With inflation at around 10%, college teachers have experienced large real-terms salary cuts this year, and these follow a sustained period of real-terms cuts to pay. In this report, we set out how college teacher pay has changed over time, we compare the pay of college teachers with that of school teachers and we look at staff retention levels in schools and colleges. Note that the analysis on pay focuses on the roughly 50,000 teachers in general further education colleges across England, so does not include teachers in sixth-form colleges, whereas the analysis on retention levels covers both.

There are around 50,000 teachers1  in further education (FE) colleges across England who educate students aged 16 and over. College teachers are responsible for teaching a wide range of qualifications from BTECs and A levels predominantly taken by young learners through to basic skills qualifications and advanced vocational qualifications taken by adult learners. Over the last few months, many of these teachers have been involved in strike action over pay and conditions. In this section, we look at how the pay of teachers in FE colleges has changed; this does not cover the roughly 10,000 teachers in sixth-form colleges.

College leaders in England have autonomy to set the pay level of their staff, but their decisions are anchored on annual pay recommendations made by the Association of Colleges (AoC). Each year, the AoC recommends pay awards for FE colleges (there is a separate process for sixth-form colleges) for the next academic year. The AoC typically recommends the same pay award across all college staff irrespective of their current level on the FE pay scale. In Figure 1, we present the AoC’s annual pay recommendation for college staff in England alongside inflation in each financial year since 2007–08.

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