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Barnfield faces trouble on two fronts

Barnfield College, which earlier this year announced plans to become England's first state-funded college to be run for profit, has suffered a double blow. Members of the University and College Union (UCU) at Barnfield are being balloted for strike action over its plans to change their contracts, which the union claims would mean its 180 teaching staff having to work an extra 30,000 hours a year. "Staff at Barnfield are already overworked and are now expected to sign up for more hours of teaching," UCU regional support official Shane Hall said. The strike ballot was due to end today. The college has also been forced to withdraw its planning application to build on one of its sports fields to create new teaching facilities, a free school and a care home, after Luton Borough Council was inundated with complaints from residents about a community facility being lost.

Course accelerates cabbies' customer service

A course that trains would-be cabbies in customer service skills has been launched by The Sheffield College. The first cohort of students has just completed the BTEC level 2 certificate, accredited by exam board Edexcel, which takes one week and offers guidance on dealing with disabled passengers. The course has been made mandatory for new taxi drivers in the city. "We are committed to providing the vocational courses and skills that local employers need," college principal Julie Byrne said. "I am delighted that the college is involved in delivering this qualification, updating the knowledge and skills of Sheffield cabbies."

Strike ballot over job losses at Kent college

Teachers at K College in Kent are being balloted over strike action in a row over its plans to make up to 145 employees redundant. The University and College Union (UCU) has demanded that any threat of compulsory redundancies is removed, and is calling for a "full transparent audit" of the college's finances. Around 50 jobs were cut two months ago. "These ill-conceived and unjustified proposals, which mean the axing of around 200 members of staff in a single calendar year, will have huge ramifications for the local area in terms of the quality of education K College is able to deliver," UCU regional support official Adam Lincoln said. "We are not seeking confrontation, but we must defend the education service the college provides not just for now, but for the future." Principal Bill Fearon has insisted that the college has no choice but to scrap some unpopular courses in order to save money. The college has also shelved its plans for a #163;20 million new campus.

Former BTEC student stars as Anna Karenina's beau

Aaron Taylor-Johnson (pictured below), a former student at Amersham and Wycombe College, is joining Keira Knightley and Jude Law on the big screen in a new film version of Leo Tolstoy's Anna Karenina. Taylor-Johnson, who plays Count Vronsky, took a BTEC national diploma in performing arts at the college in 2006-07. "It was clear back then that with numerous television and theatre performances under his belt, he was destined for a career in the spotlight," said Rebecca Smedley-Shulman, the college's performing arts programme leader. "Aaron was a model student who worked really hard and achieved a great deal while he was with us."

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