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FErret

MP has his eye on the FE booty in Brum

The wonderful world of FE is, as those of us within its inner sanctum are all too aware, the source of enough drama and crises to fill several episodes of EastEnders. But rarely has it been a front-line issue in election campaigns.

Former Cabinet minister Liam Byrne brought the sector a fleeting moment in the limelight ahead of Birmingham's vote last week on whether to have an elected mayor. The Labour MP, who fancies the job for himself, called for the position to be handed power over Skills Funding Agency budgets in the city, "to help boost apprenticeships and gear skills spending to the needs of local employers".

FErret isn't so sure. Poor FE minister John Hayes already has to divide his time between two government departments, like a child from a broken home. Forcing him to share his toys with a distant cousin in the Midlands would just be cruel.

Sticking their beaks where they don't belong

With its swanky new #163;53 million teaching facility, FErret reckons Hartlepool College could be forgiven for being a little house-proud. But the measures it is taking to prevent feathered vandals from damaging its new pad are enough to send him scuttling off to his burrow.

In order to deter seagulls from making themselves at home and roosting on its roof, the college has employed a falconer to fly peregrines around the site.

"What we are doing," falconry expert Ben Potter explains, "is removing the college as a roosting point before the breeding season gets into full swing. Putting a falcon up is like letting a lion run through a football stadium. The bird doesn't need to kill or attack anything; just seeing it is enough for the gulls to realise they have to get well out of the way."

And, of course, the falcons - seagulls' only natural predator in England - will be perfectly happy to let the birds disappear into the distance without so much as a scrap. Just like a lion let loose inside Old Trafford would be perfectly content with a programme and a Twix. FErret will be giving Hartlepool College a wide berth for a few months on health and safety grounds.

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