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A tussle on the Tyne after Ofsted visits

Newcastle College Group has made a formal complaint after it lost its "outstanding" Ofsted grade. After a controversial inspection, during which Newcastle College threw out inspectors accused of intimidating staff, the college received a rating of "good". But group chief executive Jackie Fisher said she believed the report as published merited the top grade. "The inspectors' report reads just like that of the handful of other outstanding providers, which is no surprise because I know we are outstanding. As the inspectors found, we offer exceptional teaching and learning that is among the best in the country," she said. Inspectors said the provision was good overall, with some outstanding aspects, but that success rates on long college courses had been static at around the national average for three years. Some students were not challenged enough, they said.

Colleges do more to widen participation in HE

Colleges are more successful in widening participation in HE than universities, according to research by the Higher Education Funding Council for England. Recruitment from low-participation neighbourhoods by colleges was more than 5 percentage points higher than the sector average. Young undergraduates at colleges were more than twice as likely to come from areas of low participation, making up 22.9 per cent of enrolments compared with just 10.5 per cent at universities. But widening participation comes at a cost of slightly higher drop-out rates: 14.1 per cent did not continue after their first year. Nick Davy, HE policy manager at the Association of Colleges, said: "When working with students from these backgrounds there are added challenges, financial and familial, that mean it is no surprise that the non-continuation rate is slightly higher than average. Colleges are in the vanguard of widening participation, improving higher education opportunities and providing local options."

Fund supports 16-20 apprenticeship applications

Training providers are being offered a share of a #163;450,000 fund to run projects helping young people to successfully apply for apprenticeships. The Apprenticeship Application Support Fund will fund about 10 projects each worth more than #163;25,000 to help people aged 16-20 make successful applications for apprenticeships. So far, the majority of growth has been among over-25s. Paul Warner, director of employment and skills at the Association of Employment and Learning Providers, which will administer the fund, said: "We are keen to receive bids that encourage new ideas and new approaches. In particular we would be interested to look at how under-represented groups in apprenticeships could be better supported in the application process." The deadline for bids is 1 October and a prospectus can be found at www.aelp.org.uktopicsdetailsaasf

Neets rise to 191,000 among 16-18 age group

The number of 16- to 18-year-olds out of education, work and training rose year on year to 191,000 at the end of June. The Department for Education said the increase of 0.5 percentage points to 10.3 per cent was not statistically significant. While participation in education and training was up, the lack of job opportunities had caused the overall rise in teenagers not in education, employment or training (Neet). The employment rate for teenagers not in education and training fell from 60 per cent to 44 per cent over the past 10 years. Most likely to be affected were 18-year-olds, nearly one in six of whom is Neet. Sally Hunt, general secretary of the University and College Union, said: "We simply cannot afford to maintain the current levels of youth inactivity, and urgent efforts are required by ministers to give young people genuine opportunities to get on in life."

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