FE news at a glance

Providers pound;65m out of pocket on adult training

Further education providers delivered pound;65 million of adult skills training in 2013-14 for which they were not paid, data reveals. According to figures published by the Skills Funding Agency, eight providers each ended up more than pound;1 million out of pocket by laying on training outside their adult skills budget allocation. Collectively, providers overspent by pound;65.72 million - more than double the budget of the country's biggest college, NCG (formerly Newcastle College Group). The biggest overspend came from Learndirect (pound;1.75 million), closely followed by Birmingham City Council (pound;1.7 million), City Lit college in London (pound;1.63 million), the Manchester College (pound;1.52 million), Blackpool and The Fylde College (pound;1.21 million), Sheffield College (pound;1.17 million), the Workers' Educational Association (pound;1.04 million) and Bradford College (pound;1.01 million). Another affected provider was the British Army, which laid on training worth pound;891,195 that was not covered by the SFA. Although providers can apply for extra cash to allow them to meet local demand, much of the funding has been diverted towards apprenticeships rather than classroom-based training. Accordingly, colleges and independent training providers are left with a choice between turning learners away or recruiting them but making a loss. Providers have also had to grapple with a new funding formula and the introduction of 24+ advanced learning loans. An Association of Colleges spokeswoman said the adult skills budget was cut by about 15 per cent in 2013-14, meaning it was "difficult for colleges to cut back as quickly as public spending". She added: "Colleges deal with lots of stakeholders, such as employers, councils, local enterprise partnerships and Jobcentre Plus, who want them to do more. It's sometimes difficult for colleges to say no."

Colleges `exceed expectations' with HE offering

The further education college environment gives students on higher education courses a learning experience that "exceeds expectations", according to a report by the Quality Assurance Agency. The document analyses reviews of 45 FE colleges providing HE courses in England in 2013-14 and finds some "significant" good practice, with 10 colleges commended for their work. It also praises colleges for their "quality" learning opportunities and strong employer engagement. However, the report adds that improvement is needed in a number of areas, including provision of information for students, engagement with learners' views and partnerships with employers.

Quarter of 16-18 apprentices paid less than pound;2.73

One in seven apprentices is paid less than the minimum wage, official figures reveal. A survey by the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills of more than 9,300 apprentices shows that 14 per cent received less than the hourly minimum wage in 2014 (bit.lyApprenticeWage). Apprentices aged 16-18 were the worst paid, with 24 per cent of respondents taking level 2 and level 3 apprenticeships receiving less than the current minimum wage of pound;2.73 per hour. Some 20 per cent of 19- to 20-year-olds were also paid less than the minimum wage, as were 17 per cent of 21- to 24-year-olds and 8 per cent of those aged 25-plus. Among level 2 and level 3 apprentices overall, 15 per cent were paid less than the appropriate minimum wage. David Hughes, chief executive of adult learning charity Niace, described the figures as "worrying".

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