Further Education Noticeboard

Last update: 10 Jul 2024
Latest Bulletins

Letter from Education Secretary Bridget Phillipson

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Dear Members,

Education Secretary Bridget Phillipson has written a letter to the education workforces to make clear the valuable role they will play in the government’s agenda for change.

To all working in early years, children’s services, schools, further and higher education,

It’s a huge privilege to write to you today to introduce myself as your new Secretary of State for Education and to thank you for your vital work. I want this moment to mark a reset in our relationship: under this new government, education will once again be at the heart of change and the forefront of national life. I can’t wait to start working together with you as we begin to transform our system so that young people get the skills, care and opportunities they deserve.

I know how hard you work to support our learners and families; you are key to breaking down barriers to opportunity and improving life chances for every child. You have supported our children and young people through a great deal of disruption – guiding their curiosity, building their resilience, and helping them achieve and thrive. You and your work are essential to the change this government wants to achieve across the country, and I want our renewed relationship to reflect that.

My commitment to the sector is deeply personal. I grew up in a family that knew the value of a good education. I was also fortunate enough to go to great local state schools filled with committed staff who saw the value and worth in each and every one of us. I’m so grateful for all the people in my life who nurtured within me a love of learning and the confidence to succeed – I would not be here without them.

I know that I was very lucky, but life shouldn’t come down to luck. Lives are shaped by opportunity, but too many people simply don’t have the opportunities to succeed.

I grew up on a council street in the Northeast of England. At that time in the 1980s and early ‘90s, it was a place with many challenges, where far too many children were held back by their background. But background should be no barrier to getting on.

I am determined that we will drive change together. Working with all of you, we want to build a fairer society with a government that delivers the best life chances for every child. That’s what motivates me and that’s why we will work tirelessly to deliver on our opportunity mission, tackling barriers like inadequate housing and child poverty that undermine family security and make it so hard for children to learn.

There’s a lot of work to be done to realise this mission against some major challenges. A huge part of my role is to understand the scale of the challenges you are facing, and the support needed to fix them. The scar of child poverty, severe financial pressures squeezing all your budgets, high workload, climbing vacancy rates, strain on care, mental health and SEND services, among many other issues, have made your jobs increasingly difficult. This is a tough inheritance – none of these have quick and easy solutions but I will work with and for you to find practical ways forward.

Supported by your experience and expertise, this government will expand our early years education system, drive high and rising standards and reform curriculum and assessment. Work to recruit 6,500 new expert teachers for our schools and colleges starts now, and we will bring forward a comprehensive strategy for post‐16 education, work with local government to provide loving, secure homes for children in care, provide support for children with SEND and their families, and create higher-quality training and employment paths by empowering local communities to develop the skills people need. We will secure the future of our world class universities as engines of growth, ambition and opportunity for all.

This change is simple to describe, but vast to deliver. Government can’t do it alone – we will work with you as essential and valued partners to deliver our shared mission. I want to renew the trust and respect we hold for each other. My commitment to you is to listen, to draw on your wealth of experience and to act on your honest feedback.

As an initial step, I want to invite you to join me for a live event at 4pm on Tuesday 16th July where I’ll share more about my vision for the education system, but I really want to hear from you too. There will be a chance for you to share your views and ask me questions in the live chat function.

I very much look forward to meeting as many of you as possible and working together to break down barriers to opportunity, give all children the best life chances and make sure there is no ceiling on the ambitions of our young people.

Yours sincerely,

Bridget Phillipson

Secretary of State for Education

Update on FE Pay Negotiations England 2024-25

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Dear Members,

The joint unions met with the Association of Colleges (AoC) on Monday 20 May to begin pay negotiations for 2024/25. Discussions focussed on the headline pay claim of 10% or £3000, whichever is greater, and progress towards achieving binding national agreements.

In response to the joint union claim the employers indicated that since in 2023/24 the government was able to find additional funding to ensure that in particular the pay gap between school and college teachers did not get even wider, they wanted to give the government the chance to do so again this year. AoC informed the joint unions that it will not be making a pay offer until the STRB report has been published.

The joint unions expressed frustration and disappointment that AoC was unable to make a pay offer at the NJF meeting and made it clear that the next meeting of the National Joint Forum on Monday 10th June had to make progress on the key issue of achieving binding national agreements.

Kevin Brandstatter, National Officer for Further Education said "With the General Election and the dissolution of Parliament any plans of the AoC in England to ask the Government for additional funding for the sector to prevent the gap between School staff and FE staff getting any wider will have to await the outcome of the General Election and the appointment of new ministers. GMB will demand that the sector for post-school education is finally recognised as an important provider of educational and life skills to fill some of the critical shortages in the 2024 labour market."

FE England – National Pay Talks 11 May 2023

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No offer on pay

The joint FE trade unions met with the sector employer representatives from the AoC on 11 May for the second England FE pay negotiations. You can find a report of the first meeting here: the first pay negotiating meeting for 2023/24. The joint union claim can be found here: our claim

Its deeply disappointing to report that the AoC failed to make any recommendation on pay. The AoC did comment on the fact that the union’s claim was reasonable, and they recognise that staff pay needs to improve. Further to these points the AoC commented that it was the fault of the UK government for not adequately funding the sector which restricted their negotiating position.

While it is a fact that FE in England is underfunded, employers can and do make choices regarding what they prioritise to invest in, and for far too long employers have deprioritised investing in staff pay. The joint unions stressed the impact of the cost-of-living crisis on staff and the increasing strain of inflation on food and bills, and the damage to staff wellbeing and mental health.

The AoC position is to a large extent a function of the broken national bargaining arrangements in FE, where pay increases are only recommended, unlike in schools or sixth form where pay increases are implemented.

We challenged the AoC to publicly state their support for the principle of binding national negotiations; regrettably, they did not agree to our proposal. It is the joint trade union’s view that the sector desperately needs a new settlement which covers funding, staff pay, negotiating frameworks and workloads. The reclassification of FE provides the opportunity for the AoC and the DfE to work with us to reset FE. Pressing repeat is not working.

We also called on the AoC to work with us on these matters, and instead of criticising the unions for taking action to defend the sector and our members, support us publicly and join us when we move to take joint action in the autumn. They declined that offer.

Regarding another important element of the claim on a national workload agreement, the offer is to work on a Charter of good practice. Regarding a Just Transition Commission for FE, the AoC’s view is that the national bargaining table isn’t the appropriate place for these demands, and they should be discussed separately.

Members in all five unions will have expected much more. The joint unions are now actively discussing how we can work together with a view to building for joint action in the autumn. We encourage branches to contact their principals and inform them that unless something significant changes quickly, a dispute now seems unavoidable.

FE England – National Pay Talks 19 April 2023

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No offer from the employers

The joint FE trade unions GMB, NEU, UCU, UNISON & Unite met with the sector employer representatives from the AoC on 19 April for the first England FE pay negotiations.

The unions pressed the AoC on their claim which is timely, ambitious and necessary as it not only aims to start to restore the loss in staff pay over recent years but also addresses unsustainable workloads, aims to establish meaningful sector level bargaining and create a pathway to a just transition in FE.

The AoC response, that no meaningful offer could yet be made, despite the claim being submitted on 17 March 2023 , will understandably generate anger among the respective memberships during a cost of living crisis.

No serious offer was made on the other elements in the claim. The AoC did agree to consider their position further and respond in more detail at the next negotiation meeting on 11 May.

The joint trade unions are encouraging members and branches to contact their principals and press them to ensure a full and serious offer is made by the AoC at the next meeting.

Members in all five unions will expect much more from the next meeting and are actively considering the next steps they will take if one isn’t made.

If any of your colleagues are not yet in GMB Trade Union, ask them to join on the link below.

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Association of Colleges Makes Pay Offer, Refuses Living Wage Commitment

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GMB and sister unions met with the Association of Colleges (AOC) for a negotiating meeting on Thursday 26 May.

At that meeting, AOC informed union negotiators it would be recommending a pay offer of 2.25% for the year 2022/23. The offer is not binding, meaning individual colleges are under no obligation to implement it.

In March, the unions jointly submitted a claim for a pay rise of 10% on all points with a minimum uplift of £2000, all colleges to become accredited Foundation Living wage employers and for significant movement towards agreements on workload in colleges.

As well as failing to meet the unions’ pay demands, AOC refused to commit to ensuring all colleges become Living Wage employers and on workload offered only to set up a working group to investigate further.

Read the full joint union statement here.

Previous Bulletins

Joint FE Unions Case to Government for Staff Vaccination Priority

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The joint unions in Further Education have written to the Secretary of State for Health & Social Care, Minister for Covid Vaccine Deployment, and Secretary of State for Education to make the case for prioritising staff in Early Years, Schools, Colleges and Adult Education settings for vaccination.

In brief, their rationale was:

  • Fully reopening education settings is a national priority - the moment it is safe to do so.
  • Learning often takes place indoors and in close contact with large numbers of students in multiple groups, putting staff at high risk of both catching and transmitting the virus.
  • Vaccination prioritisation, combined with mass testing, would be a sure way to reduce transmissions, remove any further disruption to the education of our young people and to support the resumption of economic activity by reducing the burden of home schooling on working parents.

The government has set the priority list for phase one of the vaccination programme based on Joint Committee for Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) advice focused on reducing risk of preventable mortality. JCVI have said that more occupations could be prioritised in phase two as it moves to a transmission reduction programme.

You can read the full correspondence here.

Joint Union Pay Claim 2020/21

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GMB as part of the joint trade unions in further education have submitted a pay claim for the next financial year. You can read the full claim below:

The joint trade unions also wrote to the Michelle Donnelan, Minister for Further Education on 23/09/2020, to express urgent concerns around the September return and the risks faced by staff, you can read the full letter here:

GMB & Joint Trade Unions/National Association of Colleges

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GMB and 5 joint FE trade unions nationally have worked with the NAC, in order to produce this guidance on planning any return to FE colleges, as well as specific guidance for the return in September:

FE England Joint Trades Unions Open Webinar

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Working together to make any return to onsite working safe in FE.

Register here. Registrations will close at 12 noon Monday 8 June.

Full details here.


Date: 04/06/2020

GMB, NEU, UCU Unite, and Unison, the 5 joint FE trade unions nationally have put to the government 5 tests it must pass before onsite learning or working is safe to begin:

  1. Significantly Lower Numbers of C-19 Cases
  2. A National Plan for Social Distancing
  3. Comprehensive Testing
  4. A Whole College Strategy for Health & Safety
  5. Protection for the Vulnerable

You can read the full statement here:

March 2020 

GMB and sister unions have been discussing the current problems facing everyone in FE. 

GMB continues to push for the best possible deal for workers in these extremely challenging times we are working with the employers to achieve this end. 

The employers association is the Association of Colleges, and covers 95% of colleges involved in further education. 

Government advice to slow down and halt the spread of the virus will continue to change, and you should follow it.  The advice is to stay at home unless absolutely necessary, practice social distancing if you go out (a minimum of 2 mtrs), and frequent hand washing, all of which will help. 

We have discussed FE college access to the job retention scheme  

Key Workers 

If any FE staff are formally in the key worker category, you will already have been written to to confirm your status. 

The employers association and trade unions are jointly seeking advice on the application of the furlough scheme to FE Colleges. 

The employers consult unions on a regular basis and their up to date guidance can be found here 

Employers guidance

FE Pay 

Initial pay discussions have begun, but have been put into abeyance while the Covid 19 problems are with us. 

Further bulletins will be issued shortly. 

If you need any further information, please email: publicservices@gmb.org.uk or kevin.brandstatter@gmb.org.uk 

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