Union claims college staff under pressure

SOME college staff have felt “forced” to leave their jobs under the Scottish Government’s reforms of the sector, teaching union representatives told MSPs.
Picture: TSPLPicture: TSPL
Picture: TSPL

David Belsey, national officer for further and higher education at the Educational Institute of Scotland (EIS), called for caution around the term “voluntary” in relation to college redundancies.

He told Holyrood’s public audit committee that college staff were also coping with increased workloads, larger classes and a rise in absence rates.

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A briefing to the committee from Scotland’s Auditor General Caroline Gardner, revealed that 1,307 staff left the college sector through voluntary severance arrangements between 2011-12 and 2013-14 at a cost of £46.6 million.

She said there had also been some compulsory severances over the period, despite former education secretary Michael Russell stating in 2011 that there was “no place” for compulsory redundancies in Scotland’s colleges.

The auditor general also provided figures showing that the number of students at Scotland’s colleges fell from 379,251 in 2007-08 to 238,239 in 2013-14.

Members of the committee have raised concerns about the drop, particularly in the number of part-time students.

Mr Belsey told MSPs: “There are fewer staff delivering the same amount of FE (further education) activity ... to the same quality.

“Where that pressure has fallen is on the shoulders of the staff, and I mean the staff across the whole sector, management but also teaching staff and support staff.

“There is increased workload, there are larger classes, there are fewer hours being given to deliver some courses, there are increased absence rates.”