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Further afield

Cable announces pound;50m to help firms plug skills gaps

Business secretary Vince Cable and skills minister John Hayes have announced a new pound;50 million-a-year Growth Investment Fund to help employers develop skills. The money, which the Government hopes will be matched by employer contributions, could be used for investment in training, setting professional standards or to support new national skills academies. Mr Cable said: "This Government understands that to rebalance and grow our economy, we need to tackle the skills shortages that hold companies back. Through this fund, we will support employers that take collective action to overcome these blockages to expansion."

Protesters don gags to demonstrate against Esol cuts

More than 150 students and staff from Greenwich Community College held a silent protest against cuts to English for speakers of other languages (Esol). Teresa Pearce, MP for Erith and Thamesmead, and principal Geoff Pine joined the demonstrators at the college's Plumstead centre, with many of the protesters wearing gags to symbolise the threat to language learning. The college said that 600 of its 1,100 Esol students will be affected by higher fees, 80 per cent of whom are female. Students on many benefits, such as income support, will have to pay fees for the first time and face charges of pound;1,215 for a full-time course, the college said.

Colleges' collaboration agreement could lead to merger

South Essex College of Further and Higher Education and Seevic College have struck an agreement to work together, which could lead to a merger. The colleges say they want to "avoid unnecessary duplication and competition" and that "all options will be considered" as they work with independent consultants to determine the best way to collaborate. They hope the deal will allow them to build a new town centre campus in Basildon, where South Essex already has a site, as well as making savings by sharing services and offering a more coherent range of courses. South Essex College was formed just over a year ago, when Thurrock and Basildon College merged with South East Essex College.

Newborn wallaby kicks off college baby boom

Bishop Burton College in East Yorkshire is celebrating a new arrival after one of the wallabies in its animal management department gave birth. And the college is set for a baby boom, with two more joeys said to be on the way. Curriculum leader Sue Harvey said: "Obviously we are delighted that the wallabies are breeding as it shows they are settled and happy in our dedicated outdoor handling centre. The joeys will be a great teaching resource, too, as students will be able to observe all of the developmental stages of the animals, as well as learn about husbandry techniques and nutrition."

Chesterfield builds on equality award with new website

Chesterfield College has created a website for resources on equality, diversity and how to foster community cohesion in FE. The site, at, comes after the college won an innovation award from the Learning and Skills Improvement Service to develop a project promoting equality and diversity, helping it to set up a conference where it gathered views from over 100 representatives from colleges across the country. Steve Kelly, the college's director of learner experience, said: "FE organisations need to work with each other in order to promote equality and diversity in the most effective way. If one college finds a particular project really gets through to learners then why not share it with other colleges? We've got the ball rolling and now we'd like other colleges to approach such projects in the same way."

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