FE news at a glance

Labour pledges upgrade for best FE colleges

Labour has said it will transform the highest-performing FE colleges in England into new "institutes of technical education" if it wins next year's general election. In a speech at Microsoft's London headquarters this week, shadow education secretary Tristram Hunt said the FE system "demands reform" if the country was to have the most skilled workforce in the world. He said the Technical Baccalaureate qualification should be delivered only by highly qualified teachers in colleges with excellent links to local industry. Mr Hunt said colleges that demonstrated excellence in vocational teaching, strong links with local businesses and high standards of English and maths provision would be put in the new category.

Funding cuts force providers to cut A-levels

Some schools and colleges are cutting their provision by offering three A-levels instead of four, last week's A-level results revealed. The latest figures show a drop of almost 17,000 entries since last year, suggesting that cash-strapped sixth forms and colleges are opting to slim down the number of courses on offer in a bid to protect themselves from funding cuts. Mark Dawe, chief executive of exam board OCR, said that financial pressures for post-16 providers had prompted many to stop offering four subjects as they tried to balance the books.

New adverts to plug apprenticeships

A national multimedia campaign was launched in England this week to promote apprenticeships as an alternative to university. The government-backed campaign seeks to demonstrate that apprenticeships are an equally valid option at 18 by showcasing the variety and quality of positions on offer. It features real apprentices in a number of sectors talking about their experiences. The advertisements will appear on television and billboards around the country and will be followed up in the next few months by a separate campaign that will be aimed at encouraging employers to take on more apprentices.

Government issues guidance on governance

The government has published a handbook for college governing bodies setting out the ways in which they are accountable to learners, employers and the communities that they serve. The document, titled College Governance: a guide, explains how accountability measures are changing in the further education sector, as well as setting out the government's policies. Skills minister Nick Boles said that reforms had given colleges more freedoms to be responsive to the needs of learners and employers but had also brought increased responsibility.

College under threat for its `inadequate' finances

The FE commissioner has called into question the future of the struggling Stratford-upon-Avon College. In a report published last week, David Collins said there was a "question mark" over its long-term viability as an independent institution. The commissioner was sent in to the college in May after its financial health was declared to be "inadequate" by the Skills Funding Agency. The new management team has begun the process of restructuring, which includes plans cut 40 posts to save pound;1.2 million. Dr Collins will make a monitoring visit this autumn to decide whether further action is necessary.

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