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Call for 'secure colleges' for young offenders

Justice secretary Chris Grayling has called for the creation of "secure colleges" to offer young offenders better education and rehabilitation while cutting the cost of custody. The Ministry of Justice said that the average cost of keeping a teenager in a young offenders' institution was #163;100,000, rising to #163;200,000 in some cases, with nearly three-quarters reoffending within a year of release. Most of them have been excluded from school at some point and half of 15 to 17-year-olds in custody have the literacy of a person four to seven years younger. The ministry described education provision as "patchy". "We cannot go on just doing more of the same. Pouring more money into a system doesn't work in the hope of a different outcome," Mr Grayling said at the launch of a Green Paper proposing reforms. "I want to see new models, perhaps something like secure colleges, providing education in a period of detention, rather than detention with education as an after-thought. I want young people to get the education and skills they need to turn their backs on crime for good."

Regional role for Ofsted's learning director

Ofsted's head of learning and skills is taking up a second job, as the inspectorate's regional director of the South East. Matthew Coffey will combine both roles from March, leading a team of inspectors and senior inspectors to promote school and college improvement. Chief inspector Sir Michael Wilshaw last week told the Commons Education Select Committee that he remains concerned that the quality of education in colleges is suffering from a focus on "capital funding, external reach and going abroad". Mr Coffey said the problem was mainly in urban areas, especially in London. But Joy Mercer, policy director at the Association of Colleges, said Ofsted was drawing conclusions "unsupported by evidence" and overlooking the fact that it inspected more colleges on a risk-assessed basis than schools, creating a skewed sample where grades were more likely to fall.

EMA lives to fight another day in Northern Ireland

Northern Ireland's employment and learning minister Stephen Farry has followed the example set by Wales and Scotland and announced that he will be retaining the education maintenance allowance (EMA). While the #163;10 and #163;20 payments will be scrapped, students will still qualify for #163;30 a week if they have a family income of less than #163;20,500, or #163;22,500 if there are two or more students in the family. "England now stands alone as the only nation that does not offer this vital support, and must do better," Sally Hunt, general secretary of the University and College Union, said. "Many students in England, who would qualify for the EMA, will be left without the assistance they need to stay on at college, resulting in some leaving education at 16." In 2010 the government scrapped the EMA in England, arguing that too much money was wasted on students who would have continued to study without it.

LSIS research aims to help FE go green

The Learning and Skills Improvement Service is launching two pieces of research into the importance of sustainability skills for FE. Sustainability Skills for Growth aims to identify the opportunities for FE colleges and providers to lead the development of the environmentally friendly industries of the future. Another project aims to explore the skills and knowledge that can allow FE providers to embed sustainability in the curriculum. Conrad Benefield, sustainability programme development manager at LSIS, said green skills and the low-carbon economy were seen as vital to the UK's future prosperity, so it was important for the FE sector to be able to contribute.

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