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Johnson holds ground

The Education Secretary, Alan Johnson, faced cross-party protests about cuts in adult education, but stuck to his guns during last week's Commons exchange, insisting the Government is right to focus on longer courses leading to qualifications, writes Trevor Mason of Press Association.

He admitted "low priority" short and non-accredited courses will lose funding, with students being asked to pay more from their own pockets. If colleges can't convince students to pay, courses will close.

The Government predicts the number of unskilled jobs will drop from 3.5m to just over 500,000 by 2020. "If that doesn't focus our minds on the need to change course with FE, despite all the pains, then nothing will," said Mr Johnson, insisting skills must remain the priority.

John Hayes, the Conservative spokesman on FE, said: "The Association of Colleges says 700,000 places cut, you say 200,000." Accusing Mr Johnson of "bull and bluster" on the issue, Mr Hayes asked how many of the places related to older and vulnerable students such as the disabled.

Mr Johnson said provision for learners with disabilities was being "prioritised".

He said he did not recognise the figure of 700,000 places lost.

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