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Further afield

Former apprentice helps trim cost of new 8m campus

South Devon College this week opened its 8 million university centre, partly thanks to one of its former apprentices who worked to keep costs down after Learning and Skills Council funding was withdrawn. The 2,300 square metre Vantage Point campus in Torbay was eventually funded with reduced grants from other funding bodies. Aston Mills, a former student at the college, helped to rescue the plans as area director of contractor Morgan Sindall through alterations to the design and seeking out alternative funding. Claire Smith, a student governor, said: "There is a real buzz, everyone can't wait to get into the new building. It's a very exciting time starting back this term in an inspiring state-of-the-art new building."

Hughes calls for a fairer student pay-back system

Simon Hughes, the deputy leader of the Liberal Democrats, called for greater student support to make education affordable for all on a visit to Liverpool Community College. In a Qamp;A session with students and staff about the new coalition Government, Mr Hughes said Liberal Democrats wanted to reduce the up-front cost of education. "Our principle is that you should not have to pay up front for your education, there should be a system in place for individuals to pay back the costs when they are in employment and can afford to," he said.

He told the audience of 50 last week that education needed to be more flexible and cost-effective, as well as fairer.

Mayor honours mother's good grace with gangs

A student at Lewisham College has been presented with a peace award by Boris Johnson, London's mayor, for her work leading gang members away from violent crime. Mimi Asher, a hospitality student at the south London college, won the Parents' Peace Award at a ceremony in City Hall for her work with more than 200 young people through her project Word of Grace Ministries. Ms Asher, whose own son was a former gang member, said: "I was so scared that my son would end up dead or in prison, because that's where that sort of life leads, and that's how I got into this sort of work. My son has now turned his life around, he is at college and has got a part- time job. He is also helping me to reach out to other gang members."

Horticultural unit bursts into life after bumper crop

Bishop Burton College has created a new horticulture centre to meet growing demand after student numbers on the gardening courses doubled in just one year. Completed at a cost of 300,000, the horticulture unit at the college near Hull includes technology to monitor plant growth rates and the college intends to use it for experiments such as trying to cultivate rare mushrooms. Geoff Fisher, the course manager, said: "This building and its associated infrastructure offers us scope to build new and exciting modules into our further education courses and the whole area will be run as sustainably as possible. The building boasts a rainwater- harvesting system and we will be setting up organic fruit and vegetable plots, as well as dedicated areas given over to encouraging biodiversity."

Minister praises Barnfield College's enterprising initiative

The minister for academies, Lord Hill of Oareford, has praised Barnfield College's pioneering federation and sponsorship of two academies, saying he hoped it would be replicated across the country. Lord Hill visited the two academies and the newly opened Barnfield Enterprise Studio, one of the first of the 14-19 "studio schools" aimed at giving students a practical learning experience to prepare them for apprenticeships, work or starting their own business. The Luton college and its federation is "an exciting and innovative place that proves outstanding results can be achieved through partnership working", Lord Hill said. "As the Government gives more power to schools, I hope that Barnfield Federation's imaginative approach to education will be repeated across the country."

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