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Campaign comedown

FErret writes this in advance of this week's parliamentary vote on the education maintenance allowance (EMA). He just hopes no MP defended it in quite the way University and College Union national official Dan Taubman did.

Mr Taubman started so well, telling campaigners against cuts to English for speakers of other languages (Esol) that teenagers on Esol courses may also be affected by the EMA cuts. "I don't know if you saw those students from Tower Hamlets College or Tottenham, judging from their accents, who said if it wasn't for EMA they would probably out on the street dealing drugs," he said.

"They probably are anyway, but it was a good line," he added, before anyone could stop him.

There it is, then: "Union says EMA funds teenage drug dealers."

Charm offensive

Oh, the ingratitude! Is John Hayes' honeymoon with FE colleges coming to an end?

FErret has been surprised to see how popular the FE minister is among principals, considering he has to wield the axe rather a lot, but he has won them over with warm words and a cheery WB Yeats quotation.

But now one principal's story, about an unnamed minister who bears some resemblance to Mr Hayes, suggests all the rhetoric about "freedom" is starting to pall with college staff, who can see the very non-rhetorical effect of cuts.

Eddie Playfair, principal of Newham Sixth Form College, told a meeting of Save EMA campaigners: "It's really insulting to have met with a Government minister lately who told me we ought to be really pleased we had this burden of the duty to contribute to social and economic well-being lifted."

"I thought that's why I got into education," he added.

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