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Congress 2024: Further Education Sector Conference

21 May 2024

UCU Congress 2024: Thursday 30 May 2024, 09:00-18:00

Sector conferences scheduled for Thursday 30 May did not take place.

Motions have been allocated to a section of the NEC's report to Congress (UCU2119). Paragraph headings refer to paragraphs within this report. CBC may have added some new paragraph headings to facilitate the ordering of motions.

Section 3: Business of the Further education committee (FEC)

Section 3.2: FE Pay England 2023-24

FE1  Ongoing issues around pay in FE - Yorkshire and Humberside regional FE committee

Conference notes: 

  1. determined action by members has secured pay deals for staff at many colleges
  2. these increases do not come anywhere near compensating for the drop in value of lecturers salaries since 2010, which may be up to 40%.

Conference believes: 

  1. many colleges can afford to do better
  2. a national bargaining framework would support better pay
  3. national action will be necessary to achieve a genuine pay increase.

Conference resolves (before September): 

  1. to campaign loudly and publicly for colleges to share their financial positions
  2. to move forward with a national aggregated ballot on; demands for pay restitution within 5 years, that all FE institutions are required to be members of the AoC (or its equivalent) and that its pay recommendations are binding. 

FE1A.1  Eastern and Home Counties regional committee

Add to 'Conference notes' section:

  1. the decisions of the SFESC on the 13th April 2024.

After 'Conference resolves', delete '(before September)'

Point ii, replace 'To move forward with...' with 'To work towards...'

FE2  National bargaining and non-AoC FE colleges - Bradford College

This conference notes: 

  1. years of a broken national bargaining framework has forced branches to bargain locally for their own pay, terms and conditions
  2. depending on local conditions, branches can have successes, incremental improvements and failures
  3. the danger of executives choosing to leave or stay out of national negotiating and bargaining structures means they can continue to play institutions off each other and keep terms and conditions sub-standard. 

This conference believes that: 

  1. binding negotiation and bargaining in England will improve chances of raising pay, terms and conditions across the sector
  2. branches outside the AoC must have a route to be included in any English national bargaining framework. 


  1. to ensure organising and recruitment activities are conducted with those branches and provide networking and sharing opportunities
  2. to seek and act on solutions to include non-AOC branches in any national campaign action including industrial ballots and action. 

FE3  Composite: Levelling up: Non-one must be left behind - Liverpool City College (Vauxhall), CCCG City and Islington College (Camden Road), LGBT+ members standing committee

Conference notes:

  1. in 1993 the sector was incorporated and with it the break-up of national bargaining and the introduction of the market and competition into the sector. Before incorporation FE lecturers were better paid than teachers. Since incorporation the FE sector has become the worse funded sector within education, this disproportionately affects both LGBT+ lectures and students
  2. the £600m extra over two years given to the sector and the UK government's decision to reclassify FE
  3. the next UK general election is likely to be in the Autumn
  4. this year's campaign was based on improving pay and improving workload. Action over pay has resulted in some improved offers for most of those colleges who took strike action
  5. the FEC decision to implement SFESC and FESC motions to ballot to enable action in the new academic term.

Conference believes:

  1. the break-up of national bargaining has institutionalised localised bargaining leading to a disparity between colleges and regions of pay and conditions, which negatively impacts LGBT+ lectures
  2. by having no national agreements that are binding on colleges/groups has led not only to one of the most unequal public sector organisations but also has allowed the sector to be the most underfunded
  3. all colleges need to be levelled up
  4. our campaigning has forced the AoC to agree to have 'exploratory' talks over binding agreements
  5. the decision to move to an aggregated ballot is carrying out the will of sector conferences are implementing policy passed at the SFESC and the FESC last year. It will take strikes, demonstrations and lobbies to win our claim
  6. the opportunity must not be missed. The time is right to follow the recent FE Respect campaign, strike actions, and move to DoE, teacher shortages and the GE.

Conference resolves:

  1. to support the FEC's Levelling up campaign strategy for a binding national agreement on pay, workload and conditions
  2. to ballot members in an aggregated ballot
  3. produce briefing papers to send to all branches explaining the importance of binding agreements
  4. if we are successful in winning the ballot to call escalating strike action from September.
  5. convene a strike committee at the end of the first wave of escalating strike action to review and decide the next steps.

FE3A.1  City and Islington College, Camden Road Branch

Delete: Resolves i. ii, iv, and v.

Add a new believes point g:

  1. we won't be able to win a nationally binding agreement without strike action.

Add new resolves:

  1. to meet with the AoC to discuss plans for a national binding agreement
  2. to prepare to launch a campaign for an aggregated ballot in January 2025 to aim to launch ballot in June 2025
  3. to call a SFESC in February 2025 to discuss what action we should take.

FE4  England-wide demonstration - Further education committee


  1. the government decision to reclassify FE
  2. the extra £600m over two years given to the sector
  3. some colleges willingness to commit to nationally binding agreement
  4. the FEC decision to ballot members in a nationally aggregated ballot. 

Believes that: 

  1. there is the real potential to win a national bargaining agreement where no one in the sector is left behind
  2. it will take escalating England-wide strike action to win such an agreement
  3. more branches than ever before are in a position to beat the government TU thresholds.

Resolves to: 

  1. call an England-wide demonstration on the second day of strike action in London to march on Parliament in support of claim.

FE4A.1  Westminster Kingsway College

In resolves (i) delete 'on the second day of strike action in London to march on Parliament in support of claim' replace with 'with our colleagues in HE in defence of post 16 education, on a Saturday in central London in the Autumn term'.

Section 3.3: Health and safety

FE5  Student behaviour and the effect on staff wellbeing - Yorkshire and Humberside regional FE committee

Conference notes: 

  1. the decline in behaviour and attendance in schools and colleges since Covid
  2. the increased number of disaffected young people (formerly NEETs) who now have to attend college until the age of 18
  3. issues around a lack of support for students with additional needs and mental health issues
  4. the increased workload and stress caused by the above to staff in FE. 

Conference believes: 

  1. more can be done by colleges to support staff with difficult behaviour
  2. not all behaviour issues are a result of poor classroom management.

Conference resolves to (before next congress): 

  1. commission a survey of members in FE around behaviour and how they are supported by management
  2. use the results to develop a set of best practice guidelines which branches can negotiate with colleges to use.

FE5A.1  West Midlands regional FE committee

Add at end of 4b:

'and staff should feel confident they can report concerns and seek support without being viewed as incompetent.'

Insert new resolves point ii and renumber:

  1. pilot/investigate the use of H&S approaches to monitor and record instances of violent and aggressive behaviour, including 'near misses', in accident books.

FE6  A kinder, more supportive inspection process - UCU Cymru FE sector committee

Conference notes the horrific result of the OFSTED inspection that led to the death of Headteacher, Ruth Perry. Conference further notes the call from MPs that call for action to address the 'toxic impacts' of their inspection regime. 

Conference believes that inspection regimes should be re-evaluated and change from one-word judgements or statements. Schools and colleges are very complex institutions that should not be defined to a similar outcome as a survey. 

Conference calls on the UCU to seek agreement with other education unions, to lobby the government to re-evaluate inspection regimes and introduce a kinder, more supportive, and inclusive process. 

FE7  Workload, Ofsted and mental health - Westminster Kingsway College

FESC notes:

  1. Ofsted continues 
  2. 25% FE teachers leave in the first year, almost 50% after 3 years. 

FESC believes:

  1. Ofsted creates a culture of fear and is used by college management to increase workloads which impacts of staff mental health
  2. a key reason for high turnover is unbearable workloads
  3. colleges have cut support staff to the bone and piled this work on to teachers
  4. college management prioritise improving their data rather than prioritising education and staff wellbeing. 

FESC resolves:

  1. to continue to build the campaign to abolish Ofsted
  2. to resist individualised solutions to 'cope with workload'
  3. to support national action on workload, to leave no branch behind. 

FE8  Observations and Safeguarding - West Midlands regional FE committee

FESC notes: 

  1. both internal and Ofsted observations can have a negative impact of the mental and physical health and well being of staff and students
  2. the pandemic and post-pandemic education environment has seen a marked increase in mental illness
  3. safeguarding regulations are robust and well established in FE for students
  4. staff and students during observations are under immense pressure and may meet the definition of 'vulnerable adults'.

FESC resolves: 

  1. UCU to develop guidance on supporting staff who meet the definition of 'vulnerable adult' and lobby Ofsted/AOC and FE colleges to widen their scope to support vulnerable staff during inspections
  2. UCU to use existing health and safety legislation to support staff who meet the definition of 'vulnerable adult'. 

Section 3.5: Future of work in post-16 education project

FE9  Future of Work in Post-16 Education Project - Further education committee

FESC notes:

  1. work to establish a Future of Work in Post-16 Education working group bringing together UCU members from across the union
  2. OECD and Education International guidelines launched in 2023 and EI strategic recommendations for integrating AI into education systems ethically and effectively
  3. initial exploratory discussions between UCU, NEU, NASUWT and EIS on joint work they could undertake on responding to AI and new technology in education.

FESC believes it is crucial that UCU has policy on the use of artificial intelligence in education which can inform a bargaining approach both nationally with employers and locally by branches.

FESC resolves to call on FEC to:

  1. resource the work of the Future of Post-16 Education working group, ensuring that its recommendations can be considered at Congress 2025 at the latest.

FE9A.1  Composite: Disabled members standing committee, Anti-casualisation committee

After sentence beginning 'FESC believes it is crucial...' add new sentence at end, after 'and locally by branches':

'FESC believes that the working group should explore the equalities impact of AI especially on disabled workers, and the potentially disastrous impact of AI on casualised workers'

FE10  Hybrid/online teaching, class size and health and safety guidelines - UCU Cymru FE sector committee

Conference notes that changes in technology have brought about new interpretations of teaching. Class sizes and working conditions have vastly altered.

Conference believes that technology and health and safety protocols should be utilised to improve our conditions not to worsen them. 

Conference resolves to set up a working party chaired by a FEC officer to draw up guidelines to protect our members from techno creep. 

This should report to Congress 2025.

FE10A.1  Disabled members standing committee

Insert new paragraph after the first sentence:

Conference notes that assistive technologies, for both in-person and online teaching, is not always readily available for staff and learners and believes that this should be included in the remit of the working group.

FE10A.2  Anti-casualisation committee

End of first paragraph, after 'working conditions have vastly altered,' add:

Conference notes that the move to hybrid/online teaching has increased the potential for employing staff on casualised contracts and believes that the working group should look at the impact of hybrid/online teaching on casualised staff.

Section 3.6: Anti-casualisation 2023-24

FE11  Recruitment and retention of casualised members in further education - Anti-casualisation committee

FESC resolves to set up a member group to explore how to increase UCU membership and activity from casualised members across FE.

Members of the working group shall be drawn from casualised members in FE and should be geographically representative and include members from FE, ACE and prisons. The final membership of the group will be decided by the FEC in consultation with ACC.

The group will be tasked to look at recommendations to increase membership and participation by casualised members, looking at: improving data collection, targeted communications, how to use H&S legislation, how casualisation and equalities intersect, how casualisation impacts on overall recruitment and retention, how to network anti-casualisation reps, training and CPD, holding on-line events, learning lessons from HE casualised members.

The group will report to the ACC and FEC and to bring recommendations to the annual meeting for staff on casual contracts 2025.

FE11A.1   Women members standing committee

To add at the end, 'We call upon FEC to ensure that the composition of this group will reflect diversity, especially regarding women, who are often represented in precarious employment. In addition, we believe that intersectionality compounds this and we also call upon the FEC to ensure representation from all the equalities standing committees on the working group'.

Section 3.7: Adult and Community Education

FE12  ACE Campaign - Hackney Adult Learning

Organising ACE:

  1. since 2010, funding for adult community education (ACE) has been cut by 45% by successive Conservative governments
  2. the average rate of pay for an adult community teacher is far below FE teachers, we need to campaign for better pay and secure contracts


  1. ACE needs these cuts reversed, courses revived, and staff employed on secure contracts.


  1. we reaffirm our policy for national binding agreements for secure contracts and improved pay terms and conditions
  2. work more closely with political and other bodies who are campaigning for ACE WEA, sister Unions, and campaign groups
  3. UCU to dedicate organising resources to improve recruitment and organisation within ACE.

FE13  Protest against job and creche losses at Coventry Adult Education - Coventry Adult Education Service

Conference notes at Coventry Adult Education Service, our learners' creche provision at seven different teaching venues is under threat of closure by July 2024. There are also a significant number of senior lecturer roles proposed to be deleted across the service. Experienced dedicated staff are under threat of losing their jobs. At this moment there is a potential loss of 37 roles (19.56) FTE.

Conference believes ACE needs these cuts reversed, the current course provision conserved in all curriculum areas, and for all staff to be employed on permanent secure contracts. That additional funding went to FE colleges for pay and staffing but ACE were excluded from that additional funding.

Conference resolves:

  1. full national support for Coventry ACE campaign to reverse the cuts
  2. for a UCU national campaign to reverse the cuts in ACE Respect Adult Community Education
  3. for a nationally binding framework agreement for ACE staff.

FE14  Funding for Institutes of Adult Learning (IALs) - support IALs - Composite: Morley College (Waterloo branch), City Lit

Conference notes the unique position of Institutes for Adult Learning (IALs) within FE and ACE. When the government announced additional funding for FE in 2023, it did not include IALs although these fall within the FE sector. The IALs' body is the Association of Colleges (AoC) while other (local government) ACE employers are represented by HOLEX. IALs did not receive the 6.5% uplift for FE. 

Conference believes funding and pay within IALs (and the entire ACE sector) should be in line with FE. UCU should create pay negotiators for the IALs within AoC, and for ACE/HOLEX, and raise a campaign for IALs (and ACE in general). 

Conference resolves

  1. to work towards the creation of specialised pay negotiators for both IALs (in negotiation with AoC) and ACE (with HOLEX). These negotiators should have specialist knowledge in funding for IALs and local government.
  2. to raise profile of IALs by organising an IAL Forum to foster solidarity between IALs.

Other FE matters

FE15  Building for the new prison education contract - Novus Prison Education 

We note the successes recently on pay and terms and conditions, we are growing in branch organisation and reps and membership. However, the time is now for more co-ordination and resources. We need to raise the profile and make sure our strategic demands get more awareness and support. A national campaign is therefore needed. 

Conference notes:

That success was due to the following:

  1. working with the National Organisers
  2. a targeted political lobbying campaign and involvement of JUPG and JUPA 
  3. being as close to ballot ready at all times.

Conference believes 

  1. that the future of prison education lies within the DFE
  2. the curriculum on offer should match that on offer to students outside the walls. 

Conference resolves

  1. to continue organising and campaigning to secure a better future under PES
  2. prioritise work on the New Fair Deal
  3. continue the campaign for a single contract for prison educators
  4. advocate for wider curriculum.

FE16  Young people, mental health: access to education versus compulsion - New City College (Poplar Branch) 


  1. the government will end financial tolerance for attendance/enrolment on maths and English
  2. the increase in expected weekly maths teaching to 4 hours
  3. national pass rates of c17% for maths GCSE resits
  4. defunding of BTEC courses from 2025.


  1. the current compulsory model of maths and English is not working, the sector must find an alternative
  2. attendance chasing is driving up workload for teachers and anxiety for young people
  3. education should be creative, liberating and enjoyable not an exam factory
  4. defunding BTECs wil have disastrous consequences, including job losses, and is yet another attack on working class access to further and higher education.


  1. stop the DfE cutting BTECs funding
  2. call a protest at the DFE
  3. promote discussion on alternative models to support maths and English development such as a project based learning college diploma 
  4. UCU to call for an end to compulsory post-16 maths and English.

FE17  Gender inequality in FE - Westminter Kingsway College

FESC notes:

  1. 3 out of 5 FE teachers are women but FE policies and practices do not support gender equality
  2. parental leave is often focused on maternity leave, even then there are large disparities in enhanced pay policies
  3. the persistent use of casualised employment disproportionately impacts women
  4. disciplinary processes and managing absence policies are often not fit for purpose and disproportionately impact women this is compounded by issues of race, age and disability.

FESC believes:

  1. workload, pay and precarious employment are equality issues that must be addressed in FE
  2. colleges should be more open to flexible working and working from home.


  1. to ensure equality issues are clear in FE industrial strategy
  2. to carry out research on the impact of gender inequality in FE
  3. to have regional equality training which will help bring in FE reps to our equality structures.

FE18  Equality Data in FE - Disabled members standing committee

Conference notes equality reps:

  1. face barriers to accessing equality data about staff in FE institutions
  2. are having to resort to Freedom of Information requests to obtain equality data, as they're not readily available in the sector.

Conference believes:

  1. lack of agreed standards for equality data about staff obscures the extent and impact of gender, LGBT+ identities, disability and ethnicity inequalities in FE
  2. data about inequalities in pay, progression and retention are crucial to collective bargaining and fighting inequality within FE.

Conference calls on FEC to:

  1. develop a standardised data request for colleges, adult education institutions and prisons to acquire equality data about staff pay, progression and retention
  2. work with AoC - or any relevant body - and FE institutions to ensure that all equality data are provided, as part of their responsibility to declare information for collective bargaining.

FE19  Recruitment and retention of disabled workers in the FE sector - Disabled members standing committee

This conference calls for the setting up of a working group to explore how to increase UCU membership and activity from disabled members across FE.

Applications to the working group shall be invited from any disabled members working in FE and should be geographically representative and include members from FE, ACE and Prisons. The final membership of the group will be decided by the Disabled Members Standing Committee.

The group will be tasked to look at recommendations to increase membership and participation by disabled members, looking at:

improving data collection, targeted communications, how to use health and safety legislation, how casualisation and disabilities intersect, how equalities, especially disabilities impact overall recruitment and retention, how to network equalities reps, training and CPD, and holding online events.

The group will report to the DMSC and FEC and bring recommendations to the Annual Conference for Disabled Members 2024.

FE20  Government guidelines regarding children who are questioning their gender - LGBT+ members standing committee 

Conference notes with concern that the recent draft government guidelines 'Gender-Questioning Children' failed to support young trans and gender-nonconforming people. 

It doesn't:

  1. provide any information on how to support young people who: 
  • are experiencing transphobic bullying and harassment 
  • have gender-related mental health issues 
  • have already transitioned 
  • are non-binary or gender fluid 
  1. reflect FE culture of treating students as young adults but rather conflates them with school children 
  2. have information on the duty of FE institutions to prevent discrimination for those with the protected characteristic of gender reassignment
  3. demonstrate consideration of all equality impacts the importance of safeguarding in relation to disclosing a protected characteristic.

Conference calls on UCU to:

  1. resist the self-censorship which followed Section 28 which was hugely detrimental 
  2. campaign for trans and non-binary young people to have rights that support their self-identity
  3. support and develop work supporting trans and non-binary staff and students.

FE21  FE conference democracy - Further education committee 


  1. we are a UK wide
  2. FE Sector conference is the sovereign decision-making body in UCU
  3. the role of the FEC is to take responsibility for implementing sector conference decisions
  4. a majority vote determines which motions become policy
  5. local branches decide what action to take over local issues. 


  1. an effective union discusses and debates. Once decisions are reached, we must act in unity and decisions must be implemented
  2. when a decision is made by sector conferences in relation to national action it is incumbent on all branches involved to implement that decision
  3. local branches cannot override decisions made by sector conference over national action.


  1. once decisions are reached, we must act in unity. Officers to ensure decisions are implemented.

FE22  Further education and sustainability education - Bradford College

Conference notes that the:

  1. UN Secretary General has said we are in a new era of global boiling with unprecedented extreme weather impacting every part of the globe with increasing frequency
  2. International Energy Agency (IEA) states that to stay below the Paris Climate Agreement of 1.5oC fossil fuel use must reduce by 25% this decade and we cannot develop any new fossil fuel sites
  3. further and adult education needs to be at the forefront of preparing ourselves, students and communities for new sustainable living and working lives.

FE can play a role in combating climate change through our impact on the curriculum and through achieving more sustainable work practices.


  1. to develop further and update education and recruitment UCU sustainability resources
  2. to produce negotiation transition plans that support protections for all workers and students in FE not purely for cost cutting.
Last updated: 3 June 2024