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MPs demand cash for colleges

THE HODGE report, the most thorough review of further education in living memory, was published this week.

The 80-page document includes 50 recommendations, including proposals to replace child benefit with a learning allowance for 16 to 19-year-olds and an urgent appeal for extra funding of at leastpound;220 million next year and pound;500m over the next four years.

Margaret Hodge MP, chair of the Commons select committee on education and employment that produced the report, said: "Further education is vital to the Government's goal of creating a culture of lifelong learning. For too long FE has been the Cinderella of British education."

There are plans to tighten up the rules surrounding franchising - the practice of subcontracting courses that has been the source of much controversy - by restricting such arrangements to the college's own area "except in exceptional circumstances".

The committee also proposes a new regime of accountability, including the appointment of an FE ombudsman to handle complaints and an independent clerk of governors on each college's board to eradicate mismanagement and corruption.

The report recommends that funding of full-time A-level and GNVQ courses for 16 to 19-year-olds in FE should be raised to "match the best in schools".

The committee questioned the role of the Further Education Development Agency, saying the staff development body was overfunded and lacked a "clear strategic vision".

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