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Community learning fund awards projects #163;4m

The adult education body Niace has awarded 97 organisations funding totalling #163;4 million to support new projects in adult or family learning. There were 2,215 bids for the money in the Community Learning Innovation Fund, which Niace is managing for the Skills Funding Agency. Among the projects are personal financial education to help protect social housing tenants against loan sharks and fraud, developing an online learning service for adults with learning disabilities and offering local history courses in deprived areas. Verity Hancock, executive director at the Skills Funding Agency, described the interest in the fund as "phenomenal". "By making it easier for disadvantaged people to learn new skills and access training and support, they gain new opportunities to improve their lives, building stronger families and communities in the process," she said.

College moves in at defunct training firm

South Nottingham College has had to step in to offer apprenticeships to about 400 students after one of its subcontractors went into liquidation. JML Dolman, which held about #163;1.8 million of subcontracted apprenticeships for the college in the East Midlands, was shut down earlier this summer. The college has now temporarily taken over the company premises in Wolverhampton and will step in to run the apprenticeships, most of which are in construction. It has written to all the apprentices, and about 340 have made contact. Mark Fedulow, a project manager at the college, said: "We've spoken to most of them to let them know what is happening and we won't stop until we have spoken to them all."

Olympian to run workshops for student athletes

Solihull College has created a new student athlete programme to mark the return of its Olympic bronze medal-winning hockey star, Sally Walton (pictured), to lecturing at the college. Any full-time student who competes at county level or equivalent can apply for the status, which offers additional support for their sporting development while they pursue their education. Student athletes will have weekly workshops with stars such as Ms Walton and Nadine Okyere, silver medallist in the 400m relay at the Commonwealth Games. They will also be offered fitness lab assessments, physiotherapy and the chance to take part in research projects in sport and exercise science.

Grade inflation? It's harder than in my day

One parent concerned about GCSE grade inflation took matters into his own hands and enrolled on a maths course at Leicester College to see for himself. Barnie Choudhury, a former BBC journalist who is now working towards a master's degree in research at the University of Lincoln, took the exams while his 16-year-old daughter, Olivia, studied for her GCSEs at a nearby school. "Personally, I found GCSE maths more challenging than my O level. I had to work extra hard with statistics and spatial awareness," he said. That did not prevent him from getting an A*, however. Fortunately, Olivia also achieved top marks, with eight A* grades and three As. Olivia said: "There was an element of competition today as Dad received his marks by module so I knew he was on track for a top mark. I knew I had to try to match if not beat him in maths!"

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