16th December 2011 at 00:00

Frosty air in voucher winter wonderland

First it was gift vouchers, an attempt by the Learning and Skills Council to turn college courses into a popular holiday gift. They're still on sale at several colleges, though as yet they have failed to become the latest holiday-season craze, like a Buzz Lightyear or a Tickle-Me-Elmo.

But now Bournemouth and Poole College is trying a new promotion, offering a course through the special-offers website Groupon. In this case, you can get a half-day cake decoration masterclass for #163;35, including all the ingredients - a 65 per cent discount.

FErret hopes the decision doesn't backfire. The Office of Fair Trading is investigating Groupon after complaints about its exaggeration of about 50 deals. The owner of a Santa's grotto in York saw 2,000 families descend upon them, expecting a train ride around a winter wonderland; the train was a figment of Groupon's imagination. Things soon turned ugly. "One man even verbally threatened the lady who is dressed as a Christmas tree," the owner said.

Most bargain-hunters are cheapskates who don't return when things are back to full price, as many Groupon businesses attest. Instead, the more deals you sell, the more money you lose. Meanwhile, Groupon itself spends $1.43 for every dollar of business it attracts and some analysts have criticised its viability because it can only pay businesses owed money from past deals by selling more new ones. It was still able to use more than $800 million of funding to pay executive bonuses and early investors, however.

"Having your cake and eating it is usually preferable," said the Groupon copywriter in the college's promotion. Indeed.

Can life be easy for a boy named Mary?

Shock news is contained within Companies House filings for the new Gazelle Group of entrepreneurial colleges: North Hertfordshire principal Fintan Donohue's middle name is Mary. Perhaps his parents were Johnny Cash fans? "I grew up fast and I grew up mean ... Life ain't easy for a boy named Sue" - or Mary, FErret assumes.

Log-in as an existing print or digital subscriber

Forgotten your subscriber ID?


To access this content and the full TES archive, subscribe now.

View subscriber offers


Get TES online and delivered to your door – for less than the price of a coffee

Save 33% off the cover price with this great subscription offer. Every copy delivered to your door by first-class post, plus full access to TES online and the TES app for just £1.90 per week.
Subscribers also enjoy a range of fantastic offers and benefits worth over £270:

  • Discounts off TES Institute courses
  • Access over 200,000 articles in the TES online archive
  • Free Tastecard membership worth £79.99
  • Discounts with Zipcar, Buyagift.com, Virgin Wines and other partners
Order your low-cost subscription today