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Adult learning declines, even among the wealthy

Participation in adult education has fallen even among the wealthiest and those in work, according to adult education body Niace's annual survey. Published in advance of Adult Learners' Week, which starts tomorrow, the survey found that only 38 per cent of respondents had participated in learning in the past three years. This is a fall of 5 per cent since 2010. In the past year, the number of people in the top socio-economic groups who were in education fell by more than 2 per cent, although they were still twice as likely to be in learning as unskilled workers. "It is disappointing that participation in learning is declining, with many of the people who could most benefit missing out," said David Hughes, chief executive of Niace.

Unions criticise colleges' #163;65m agency staff bill

Unions have accused colleges of wasting millions after Freedom of Information requests revealed that 170 of them have together spent nearly #163;65 million on agency staff. Unison, which represents about 25,000 support staff in colleges, said the 20 per cent VAT bill added to agency costs meant it was a wasteful way to hire staff at a time when permanent employees face job losses and pay cuts. According to the responses, six colleges had an agency staff spend of more than #163;2 million, including Bolton College, where staff face pay cuts of up to #163;7,000 and 47 redundancies. "Colleges are claiming that they cannot afford to relieve the pressure on workers and their families by giving them a pay rise," said Unison's head of education, Jon Richards. "These staff will be rightly shocked that colleges have tens of millions to spend on agency workers and on VAT bills."

Desk-renting scheme to ease Olympic congestion

The Association of Colleges is encouraging London members to make use of free desk space over the summer in a money-making scheme aimed at easing transport congestion during the Olympics. Working with a company called NearDesk, they intend to rent out college desks at #163;330 each, offering employers a way for staff to work near their homes. Transport for London is aiming to reduce commuters by 30 per cent to accommodate Olympic travellers.

UCU members vote to strike at Chesterfield

Chesterfield College faces strike action from University and College Union (UCU) members in response to plans for redundancies and a cap on lecturers' pay. Of those who voted in the ballot, which ended last week, 88 per cent backed industrial action. As well as proposing 39 teaching staff redundancies, the college intends to cap salaries at #163;30,462, almost #163;5,000 less than the average for FE teachers. Staff who already earn more than this will be unaffected. "It is a real shame that things have to come to this, but we are not prepared sit back while jobs and pay are attacked in this way," said UCU regional support official Anne O'Sullivan. Colleges across the country face funding cuts of up to 12 per cent this year.

Wales announces #163;3,000 teacher trainee grants

New financial incentives for students undertaking postgraduate FE teacher training courses in Wales have been announced. A grant of #163;3,000 will be available for eligible students starting full-time FE initial teacher training courses in science, technology, engineering and maths in the 2012-13 academic year. Students across all other subjects can access a grant of #163;1,000.

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