FE news at a glance

Labour pledges to end technical education `failure'

The UK would have a vocational education system to rival Germany's under a Labour government, shadow education secretary Tristram Hunt claimed this week. Speaking at the party's annual conference in Manchester, Mr Hunt said that technical education had been the Conservatives' "greatest failure". He added that a Labour government would make sure FE colleges focused on training for local jobs, "proper apprenticeships" lasting two years, a respected technical baccalaureate qualification, careers advice and technical degrees so that young people could earn and learn. "The old barriers between academic and technical [will be] crumbling under the next Labour government, righting the wrongs of the last five years," he told delegates.

UCU strikes out alone over pay and conditions

The University and College Union (UCU) has resolved to continue with planned strike action next month, despite its sister unions deciding to accept national offers from FE and sixth-form colleges. Earlier this month, the UCU's FE members rejected a 1 per cent pay offer from the Association of Colleges (AoC), and announced they would be joining the public sector strike on 17 October. The union said that 85 per cent of those who voted had opted to reject the offer and supported strike action "in an effort to secure an improved deal". But the AoC said that, as the five other unions involved in negotiations (AMiE, the Association of Teachers and Lecturers, GMB, Unison and Unite) had decided to accept the deal, it would press ahead with implementation. The Sixth Form Colleges Association has also agreed a 1 per cent increase with the ATL, NASUWT, NUT and Unison. In a statement, the AoC said it was "disappointing" that the UCU had decided to take action, and that it was taking advice on the validity of the UCU's ballot. "With colleges facing significant financial pressures, AoC's final recommendation of a 1 per cent pay increase, with no conditions, is a fair balance between rewarding staff and maintaining the financial well-being of colleges where possible," it said. "At a time in which colleges are focusing on inducting students and prioritising services for the new academic year, it is also an unwelcome distraction for colleges locally." Meanwhile, the UCU announced that it would consider dates for further targeted and national strike action.

Clegg hits out at apprenticeship `snobbery'

Deputy prime minister Nick Clegg has attacked what he called the "barely concealed snobbery" around vocational education. Mr Clegg made the remarks while welcoming the latest 200 school-leavers to join the Civil Service Fast Track Apprenticeship Scheme. The programme gives 18- to 21-year-olds who don't want to go to university the chance to earn as they learn while working in the heart of government. Mr Clegg said it was important that such schemes received the recognition they deserved, as they were a "clear step away from the barely concealed snobbery around vocational education". He added: "Apprentices make a fantastic contribution to our society and I want young people from every background to know that if they choose to pursue their career in the Civil Service, work hard and prove themselves, nothing should stop them from making their way right to the top."

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