FE news at a glance

Parties step up FE pledges ahead of May election

Labour leader Ed Miliband has pledged to create a "revolution" in vocational education. Launching his party's campaign for the 2015 election this week, Mr Miliband repeated his aim to have as many young people starting apprenticeships as going up to university. Speaking in Salford, Mr Miliband said: "We know that our country is hundreds of thousands short of the number of engineers [that] businesses demand. And we see this problem throughout our economy: well-paid jobs, gone wanting for people who have the necessary education and training to fill them. So we will have a revolution in vocational education, so that as many young people leave school to do an apprenticeship as currently go to university." Labour previously said it would raise the number of school-leavers becoming apprentices to match the number going to university by 2025. The three main political parties have each made pledges on work-based learning, leading some to claim that an "apprenticeships arms race" is under way. Prime minister David Cameron promised that a future Conservative government would increase the number of apprenticeships by 50 per cent to 3 million during the next Parliament, funded by benefit cuts. The Liberal Democrats have pledged to increase the number of apprenticeships and improve their quality, as well as to give more incentives to employers to take on apprentices and expand the number of degree-equivalent Higher Apprenticeships. The party has also proposed a pay rise for apprentices.

Struggling Greenwich college gets new leader

A college rated inadequate by Ofsted has appointed an experienced new principal. Greenwich Community College was referred to the FE commissioner after an inspection report, published last month, found it to be inadequate in every category. The report says that the proportion of students who successfully achieve qualifications is well below the average for similar colleges. The institution has appointed Lindsey Noble, former principal of Southampton City College, as its new leader. In Ms Noble's 12 years at Southampton, the college rose to the top 5 per cent in the UK for success rates.

`FE has to grasp Stem' says Gazelle leader

The further education sector needs to prioritise the promotion of science, technology, engineering and maths (Stem) subjects, according to a senior figure. Writing on the TES website, Fintan Donohue, chief executive of the Gazelle Colleges Group, says Stem is at now the top of the national agenda but FE has not responded as it should. He says the Stem debate is dominated by secondary education and the FE sector needs a more coherent strategy. "With the growing importance of Stem to Britain's economy, FE has been presented with an opportunity that needs to be grasped in order to produce the future leaders of our country," he writes.

Charity hatches plans to take FE staff online

Adult learning charity Ufi is developing an online course to help further education staff incorporate digital learning methods into their teaching practice. Ufi plans to deliver the training through a massive open online course (Mooc). It follows a Further Education Learning Technology Action Group (Feltag) report in October 2013, which found that a lack of time, funding and leadership in FE was blocking the uptake of digital learning. The report recommended a 10 per cent online delivery target within FE provision.

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