By Malcolm Cook
Staff at City College Brighton and Hove demonstrated this Wednesday to protest about the management’s plans to further increase class sizes.
The University and College Union at the College received a high level of complaints from teaching staff last September about the huge increase in some of the group sizes.
Classrooms were so crowded that students have no desks or seats and staff are worried about health and safety.
The situation is a direct result of management policy to not have upper limits on course sizes.
The University and College Union (U.C.U. the lecturers’ union) pointed out that larger groups would impact on the quality of learning and on teachers’ workloads.
Lecturers in Further Education colleges regularly work up to 50 hours a week to complete their duties, despite most contracts stipulating (and only pay them for) 37 hours a week.
This extra unpaid overtime is to do marking, preparation and administration – all things which increase when the group sizes are larger.
According to Human Resources at the City College; “There is no need to discuss this with the staff or unions as they (HR) do not consider that a change to class size is asking anything more than is expected. Nor is this a change to terms and conditions expressly or implied, as there is no overall increased impact to contractual or taught hours”.
Following a petition to the Principal, Lynn Thackway, the management agreed to look into oversized classes and to set out new guidelines on class sizes at the College.
These guidelines have been drawn up without any consultation with the staff or trade unions.
When the UCU branch at City College circulated the guidelines to members in departments, staff reported back to them that the new group size maximums represent a substantial and unworkable increase.
Joint UCU branch secretaries, Dr Alison Kelly and Dr Jon Gilhooly said “The management’s position that staff are unaffected by increases in class sizes is an insult to both teachers and our students.
Staff morale is the lowest it has been for years, and these attempts to overburden the workforce can only impact negatively”