FE news at a glance

Neet levels fall to their lowest since 2005

The number of young people in England not in education, employment or training (Neet) has fallen to its lowest level for the April-June period in nine years. Government figures show that the number of Neets aged 16-24 in the second quarter of this year was 13.6 per cent, the lowest comparable figure since 2005. The statistics also reveal that the 16-18 Neet rate fell to 8 per cent, the lowest for this period since records began in 2000 and four percentage points lower than when Neet levels peaked in this age group in 2009. Skills minister Nick Boles called the figures "hugely encouraging".

Audit office to scrutinise efforts to reduce red tape

The National Audit Office is investigating work undertaken by the government to simplify the way in which the FE and skills sector is funded and overseen. The study, which will report its findings this autumn, is following up on issues raised by the Public Accounts Committee's 2012 report on reducing bureaucracy in FE in England. The report concluded that the sector had too many funding organisations, none of which accepted ultimate responsibility for cutting red tape, and said the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills should coordinate the sector's efforts.

Tyne Metropolitan principal `humbled' by survey

A principal whose FE college topped a student satisfaction poll for higher education courses said it was "humbling" to beat some of the UK's leading universities. Tyne Metropolitan College topped the 2014 National Student Survey with a 100 per cent rating. The North Tyneside-based college, rated good in all areas by Ofsted in June, was matched only by London's Courtauld Institute of Art. Twelve FE colleges made it into the top 20 of the list, which was compiled by the Higher Education Funding Council for England and featured 322 universities and colleges. Jon Vincent, principal and chief executive of TyneMet, said: "Student satisfaction is of paramount importance to us.To outrank so many esteemed universities nationwide is truly humbling."

Young entrepreneurs have eyes on Edge prize

The search is on to find the country's brightest young entrepreneurs. The Edge Foundation has teamed up with the Peter Jones Enterprise Academy and Gazelle Colleges Group to launch the Edge Challenge. The competition, in its second year, is open to past and present students of any FE or sixth-form college between the ages of 16 and 25 who have a "bright and innovative" business idea. The individual winner will receive pound;3,000 to develop their start-up, along with the support of a top mentor for six months. Groups of up to five people can compete in a team category with a prize of pound;5,000. For more information, go to www.edge.co.ukedgechallenge

Sharpen up `blunt' consultations, says FE expert

Public consultations on FE reforms have become "blunt" instruments that fail to engage the sector, a policy expert has warned. In a comment piece for the TES FE News website, Andy Gannon, director of policy, PR and research at the 157 Group, criticises the "closed" questions in recent consultations on traineeships and FE loans. "The questions to which I was invited to respond took as a given the notion that what was being proposed is a good idea," he writes. "As a consequence, the questions themselves were an example of limited ways to seek views. Lots of closed questions (`Do you agree.?') were followed by lots of detailed ones about minutiae that very few people could truly engage with."

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