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FE news at a glance

MPs urge end of sixth-form colleges' VAT burden

A cross-party group of MPs has urged education secretary Nicky Morgan to introduce a VAT refund scheme for sixth-form colleges in England. In a letter, the 76 MPs (led by Conservative Graham Stuart, chairman of the Commons Education Select Committee) warn that the "VAT anomaly threatens the success of a high-performing sector". Although school and academy sixth forms have their VAT costs refunded by the government, England's 93 sixth-form colleges do not. The Department for Education estimates that a refund scheme would cost around pound;30 million a year, but in their letter the MPs say it would be "both effective and affordable".

No funding dip for students aged 16-18

Colleges have welcomed news that funding for 16- to 17-year-olds in education will remain at pound;4,000 in 2015-16. In a letter to the sector, the Education Funding Agency confirms that the national funding rate for 16- and 17-year-olds studying full-time will be maintained at pound;4,000 per student. The rate for full-time 18-year-olds will remain at pound;3,300. The Association of Colleges, which had been "seriously concerned" that funding would be cut, said it was pleased that ministers had listened to colleges' concerns. Julian Gravatt, assistant chief executive of the AoC, said the next government should pledge to protect funding for students aged 16-18.

SFA review clears out more qualifications `clutter'

A further 1,600 skills qualifications will no longer be publicly funded owing to low or no demand, the Skills Funding Agency has announced. After its annual review of qualifications, the SFA revealed that 972 qualifications with low demand - fewer than 100 enrolments a year - and 691 qualifications with no demand at all will not be available for new starts from 1 August 2015. Skills minister Nick Boles said they were "cluttering up the system". The review is the third of its kind carried out by the SFA, which has now removed two-thirds of publicly funded qualifications (6,900) from government funding since 2013, leaving 3,100 remaining.

Niace proposes `career checks' to boost prospects

Adult education body Niace is calling for a scheme to help people on low incomes boost their earnings and career prospects. In a report published this week, it proposes a National Advancement Service to help people climb the career ladder. The new service would offer a free "career check" and personal support from a career coach, and would work with employers to create more opportunities for career progression. Niace claims that the service could be funded by refocusing pound;100 million of existing budgets from the National Careers Service and the Adult Skills Budget, and that it would help half a million families by 2020.

David Baddiel to host TES FE Awards 2015

Comedian, novelist and television presenter David Baddiel has been announced as the host of the 2015 TES FE Awards. With only a fortnight to go until the ceremony at London's Grosvenor House Hotel, anticipation is building across the sector. On 27 February, Baddiel will help to present awards to the winners of categories including teacher of the year, FE leader of the year and overall FE provider of the year. Baddiel has hosted hit TV shows such as Fantasy Football League and Baddiel and Skinner Unplanned, has written four novels and last year published his first children's book, The Parent Agency. To book tickets for the event, visit

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