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Why governors of stricken colleges must step up

Most colleges in financial trouble are not being properly held to account by their governing bodies, according to the FE commissioner. David Collins cautioned the sector in a letter setting out what he has found in his first 10 interventions. He also warned that struggling colleges were spending too much money on support staff and reducing class sizes. Mr Collins, who was appointed to the role last November, said that governing bodies must have the right skills mix among their members, rather than being purely concerned with being "representative". Martin Doel, chief executive of the Association of Colleges, said that as institutions had been given greater autonomy, the role and responsibilities of their governing bodies had also expanded.

Observation fails to improve teaching, lecturers say

Graded lesson observation has no impact on the quality of teaching and learning in colleges, according to a survey of lecturers. A year-long research project into the widely used practice shows that most lecturers do not believe "snapshot" classroom observations are a valid or reliable way to judge their ability. Dr Matt O'Leary of the University of Wolverhampton surveyed almost 4,000 members of the University and College Union, finding that many lecturers believe observations are a source of stress. Respondents also reported that the practice was used as a disciplinary measure linked to capability procedures.

Queen's Birthday Honours pay tribute to principals

College principals were recognised in the Queen's Birthday Honours last week. Farnborough College of Technology's Christine Slaymaker was appointed CBE for services to FE, while Cathy Walsh of Barking and Dagenham College was appointed OBE. Fintan Donohue, chief executive of the Gazelle group of colleges, was appointed OBE, and John Dunford, former general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, received a knighthood for services to education. Kim Thorneywork, formerly the Skills Funding Agency's interim chief executive, was also appointed CBE.

Revealed: pound;1,600 funding gap among sixth-formers

Academies in England can spend almost pound;1,600 a year more per sixth-form student than sixth-form colleges because of different funding rules, a new report says. Government funding for VAT, insurance and capital costs and the ability to cross-subsidise from 11-16 funding means that academy sixth-formers are pound;1,598 a year better funded than their counterparts in sixth-form colleges, the report from policy consultancy London Economics shows. According to the research, there has been a 19 per cent increase in the number of academy sixth forms since 2005, while sixth-form colleges have declined by 10 per cent.

Aldi supermarket seeks hundreds of apprentices

Discount supermarket Aldi has announced that it will recruit 500 new apprentices in 2014, making it one of the largest retail apprenticeship providers in the UK. Birmingham Metropolitan College's Black Country Skills Shop - part of the National Skills Academy for Retail - will help Aldi to identify suitable candidates. The supermarket's scheme was launched in 2012 and has already created more than 500 jobs. The news was welcomed by skills minister Matthew Hancock.

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