FE news at a glance

NUS demands that students be given a free ride

The National Union of Students has called on the government to guarantee free bus travel for FE college students and apprentices aged 16-19 after a report revealed that councils had slashed millions from transport budgets. Research by the Campaign for Better Transport shows that local authority funding for bus services in England has fallen by 15 per cent since 2010, to pound;249.9 million, with more than 2,000 routes reduced or abolished entirely. In Wales, some 179 services have been reduced or cut over the same period. The NUS said the changes had had a huge impact on FE students and apprentices travelling to college, with almost half of students living in less built-up areas paying more than pound;20 a week to get to college and apprentices paying an average of pound;24 a week. Joe Vinson, NUS vice-president for further education, said the cuts were "incredibly worrying". "The cost of travel can be the difference between making it to college or not, particularly for students from lower-income backgrounds and those living in rural areas," he said. A spokesperson for the Department for Education said that councils were responsible for providing transport and it expected them to make "appropriate decisions". They added that most young people had access to discounts or concessions on local transport from councils, schools, colleges or transport companies, and that the government's pound;180 million bursary fund for disadvantaged young people was also often used to help with transport costs.

Barnfield College chair says sorry to students

An FE college chairman has apologised to students for the "unacceptable failure" of the previous management team after the institution was judged inadequate by Ofsted. Robin Somerville said Barnfield College in Luton had "lost its way" since being given an outstanding rating in 2007. An Ofsted report published last week says that a "significant majority" of teaching, learning and assessment at Barnfield is inadequate or requires improvement. Former principal Sir Peter Birkett, who was knighted for his services to FE in 2012 but left the college in July 2013, said he was "saddened" to read the report. Newly appointed principal Tim Eyton-Jones has pledged to "work tirelessly" to transform the college.

Electoral Commission campaigns for student vote

Education bodies including the Association of Colleges and the National Union of Students have joined forces with the Electoral Commission to urge FE college leaders to encourage their students to vote. Research by the Electoral Commission shows that some 30 per cent of 18- to 24-year-olds are not registered to vote, compared with just 5 per cent of over-65s. In a joint letter a number of education bodies have written to college and university principals asking them to help their students register to vote in May's general election by 20 April. It says that as well as emailing information to students they could hold registration drives before classes and display posters in college buildings.

New membership service recruits `critical friends'

The Education and Training Foundation (ETF) is recruiting a group of staff working in a variety of roles in the FE sector to help it develop its new professional membership service. It wants these recruits to act as "critical friends" as it develops its new service after the demise of the Institute for Learning. It said the group would have a "significant role" to play in influencing and shaping the new service, and would meet twice between January and March 2015, and then regularly afterwards. The ETF said it had received almost 3,000 responses to its online survey since it launched its consultation in November.

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