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College employee fired over financial irregularities

Blackburn College has dismissed a member of staff and called in police to look into alleged financial irregularities. Principal Ian Clinton said that an investigation carried out by college staff and external auditor KPMG had been launched after an initial discovery of "minor" financial discrepancies. He added that police inquiries were set to continue for several weeks, but stressed that the incident would have no impact on students as the college is one of the country's largest and is financially stable. "The college has a duty to its students and staff to protect its good name and, while this is an unfortunate and upsetting situation, the college has acted professionally throughout," Mr Clinton said.

NAS acts on apprenticeship quality concerns

The National Apprenticeship Service (NAS) will require apprenticeships that offer fewer than 30 hours' work a week to have a longer training period as part of its plan to address concerns about the programme's quality. This was one measure unveiled in the service's quality plan, published in response to criticism that the rapid expansion of apprenticeships has opened the door to short apprenticeships offering little learning. The NAS also concluded that levels of English and maths were not demanding enough or encouraging progression to higher-level learning. It promised to work with providers, as well as the Skills Funding Agency and the Learning and Skills Improvement Service, to help apprentices achieve higher levels of competence. However, none of the dozens of proposed actions were given a deadline for completion.

Meeting of minds on sustainable construction

Energy and climate change minister Gregory Barker (below) met a curriculum manager from Blackpool and The Fylde College to hear how colleges are preparing construction workers to meet sustainability standards. Peter Rumley visited the House of Commons as part of a delegation from the British Photovoltaic Association, which promotes solar power. The minister heard about the college's new degree in construction management and sustainable development, validated by Lancaster University, which aims to educate construction professionals in how to use sustainable technologies. "The minister was very interested to hear about the degree and thought it was a good idea as it's relevant to industry," Mr Rumley said.

Black on Track cultural group to support FE students

Nottingham Trent University's School of Education is establishing a cultural support group for black male students at South Nottingham College, following a 15-month research project about the experience of black men in FE. The group is being led by Sheine Peart, course leader for the MA education programme at the university, whose research found that there was a lack of formal support for these students, forcing them to form their own peer networks. Called Black on Track, the group will meet up to four times a term and will include guest speakers. It will explore issues such as role models, positive relationships with women, stereotypes, work and planning for the future. "There's more to their experience than just the academic side and there is no formal cultural or emotional support for them - an issue that is replicated in FE across the country," Ms Peart said. "South Nottingham College could see this was a real issue and were very keen to provide this support."

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