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News at a glance

Take-up of vocational qualifications doubles

The number of 14- to 19-year-olds taking City amp; Guilds' higher level vocational qualifications has more than doubled in the past year. New figures released by the exam board show that 733 learners started vocational courses at level 4 or above in 2011-12 - up 158 per cent on the previous year. A survey carried out by the board's Centre for Skills Development suggests this may be due to young people looking for alternative routes into employment, with 91 per cent of those surveyed saying it is likely that many families will be priced out of sending children to university. Russell Pocock, head of learner engagement at City Guilds, said: "The recent news that the majority of young people will have to pay #163;9,000 annual tuition fees to go to university is making young people rethink their routes into employment, which we believe is a positive thing for young people, businesses and the wider economy. The employers that we work with tell us time and time again that the most valuable asset they're looking for in new starters is experience."

Military-style classes to be marched into prisons

Intensive military-style classes in maths and English are to be introduced in prisons, business secretary Vince Cable has announced. The pilot will be carried out in six prisons in the North West and will be based on the successful approach used for training new recruits in the Royal Navy, Army and Royal Air Force. The project has been designed to help prisoners find employment after their release. The lessons will be made a compulsory part of popular courses such as construction, and painting and decorating. Mr Cable said: "Crime blights lives, both for the offender and the victim. That is why we are piloting this programme in prisons, so we can give prisoners the basic skills they need to get their lives on track and bring down re-offending rates. This shorter but more intensive approach means that it is less likely that their studies will be disrupted, and by linking lessons to other vocational courses prisoners are more likely to attain the skills that are needed to get a job and progress in life."

College steps up a gear with driving school

MidKent College has opened its own driving school, offering cut-price tuition for students taking a course at the college. The new venture, in which local instructors will offer the driving lessons, will also serve as an educational tool for promoting road safety. The driving school is due to open next month. "Sky-high insurance costs coupled with the crippling price of fuel mean it has never been more expensive for learner drivers to get behind the wheel," said programme administrator Matt Brown. "MidKent College driving school will play its part in reducing this financial burden by offering cheap yet high-quality instruction to our students and other customers throughout the county."

A Fiennes example of an explorer

Learners at City Lit, London's largest adult education college, enjoyed a visit from explorer Sir Ranulph Fiennes. He spoke about his experiences as one of the first people to reach both poles, as well as crossing the Antarctic continent and the Arctic Ocean. He held a question and answer session with about 100 invited guests. Sir Ranulph told guests: "Anyone can 'explore' - it doesn't need to be in the polar wastes. All you need is the motivation and City Lit is a great place to get motivated." The college, which runs more than 4,000 part-time courses, has been graded "outstanding" by Ofsted.

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