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FE news at a glance

Make vocational options a middle-class dream

Vocational education will be seen as equal to academic alternatives only when more middle-class children take it up, the former chair of Ofsted has claimed. Speaking at the annual meeting of the Headmasters' and Headmistresses' Conference in Wales this week, Baroness Sally Morgan said that in the UK technical ability seemed to be identified only in children from low-income families. "Remarkably, it seems to be entirely absent in the children of the middle classes," she added. "When we see Cabinet ministers or headmasters of our most respected schools boasting that their daughter has bagged an engineering apprenticeship at BAE [Systems] rather than a place at Balliol [College, Oxford], then perhaps we will know we are making progress."

Union ballots on more strike action at Lambeth

Members of the University and College Union (UCU) are balloting for further industrial action at London's troubled Lambeth College. UCU staff at Lambeth took part in more than a month of strike action last term over changes to staff contracts, but returned to work before the summer break without agreement having been reached. A UCU spokesman said that the ballot opened on Monday and would close on 13 October. Further talks between the college and the union are scheduled for early October, while the ballot is open. The college said it was "surprised and disappointed" by the UCU's position.

Iraq action decision prompts education minister to quit

Shadow education minister Rushanara Ali has stepped down after criticising the decision to launch air strikes on Islamic State forces in Iraq. Ms Ali, who had responsibility for 14-19 apprenticeships and college provision, as well as careers services and vocational education, said that serving in the role had been "a privilege" but she was concerned that any strikes would end up "harming innocent civilians". Labour leader Ed Miliband said Ms Ali had "served with real distinction" in the role. At the time of going to press, her replacement had not been announced.

Pinewood backs new academy for special effects

Some of the UK's leading visual effects, animation and video game companies have joined forces to create a new skills academy. The consortium, which includes James Bond producers Pinewood Studios and Sony Computer Entertainment, secured almost pound;6.5 million from the UK Commission for Employment and Skills. The Next Gen Skills Academy, which will be led by Amersham and Wycombe College and leading motion capture company Centroid, will help to develop the next generation of animators, games designers and visual effects artists. It will offer a variety of courses from entry-level qualifications to apprenticeships, as well as short courses and online learning.

Report finds fragmented skills policy `alarming'

Current skills policies in England are failing to meet the changing needs of the workplace, according to a new report. The Skills Commission has warned that government strategies are hindering the development of young people as they prepare to enter the jobs market. The warning comes in a report detailing the provisional findings of the commission's ongoing inquiry into skills provision. It says there is uncertainty around who is responsible for training, a mismatch between skills and work, a fragmented system that makes it difficult for employers to engage and an "alarming" lack of joined-up skills policy between government departments.

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