News at a glance

Failed pay talks prompt strike fears

A national FE strike has come a step closer after pay talks between the Association of Colleges and trade unions in England ended without agreement. The AoC offered FE lecturers an increase of 0.7 per cent during negotiations last Friday, but the unions did not accept it. Michael MacNeil, head of bargaining for the University and College Union, said: "The offer looks little different from recent years and does not address our concerns about members' falling pay." The union estimates that pay has gone down by 15 per cent in real terms since 2009. It has said that a national strike remains an option. A final round of talks is scheduled for 18 June.

Minimum length of flagship traineeships halved

The government's traineeships scheme will no longer have to last a minimum of six weeks, it has been announced. Training on the flagship programme for helping 16- to 24-year-olds into work could now be as short as three weeks. New guidance for 2014-15 states that work placements are expected to last between 100 and 240 hours. The scheme has had a troubled start. Last November, the former FE and skills director of inspectorate Ofsted said that initial recruitment had been "disappointing", and the government has changed the eligibility rules. Skills minister Matthew Hancock said the first year of traineeships had been successful, benefiting thousands of young people.

Poll reveals apprenticeship demand among teens

One in eight teenagers in England who are close to leaving secondary school are considering an apprenticeship, new research shows. According to LifeSkills, an organisation created with Barclays to help businesses connect with young people before they leave education, 13 per cent of 14- to 15-year-olds would like to do an apprenticeship. However, the research also reveals that two-thirds of small and medium employers cannot offer apprenticeships, with 10 per cent blaming red tape and costs. Kirstie Mackey, head of LifeSkills, said businesses required more support to connect with providers and young people in order to offer "desperately needed" opportunities.

Governors urged to raise standards

The 157 Group of colleges and inspectorate Ofsted have set out a "three-point plan" to improve FE college governance in England. The two bodies published a document designed to provoke discussion about the role that governors of FE colleges play in improving performance. It says governors should be clearer about what makes outstanding teaching, learning and assessment, and urges them to get more involved in monitoring standards. Lynne Sedgmore, executive director of the 157 Group, said governors often felt unable to hold senior leaders to account. The document's release coincided with the launch of the Inspiring Governors Alliance, which aims to celebrate and promote the importance of governance.

Welsh sector seeks `radical' solutions after cuts

The FE sector in Wales has been warned that it must come up with "radical and imaginative" solutions to make the most of public funding in the future. Colleges were stunned earlier this year when the Welsh government announced that it would slash funding by 5 per cent in 2014-15, after ministers had already reduced budgets by pound;2.5 million. At ColegauCymru's annual conference last week, deputy minister for skills Ken Skates warned that the financial climate would continue to be "challenging", and said more "radical and imaginative solutions" were needed to make the most of the money available. John Graystone, chief executive of ColegauCymru, which represents all Wales' FE colleges, said that, aside from funding, the mood was "positive and upbeat".

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