News at a glance
NUS head of FE aims for top of the union
The president of the National Union of Students (NUS) has backed his FE vice-president as a candidate to replace him. If she is successful in the elections, former Cornwall College student Toni Pearce will become the first FE student to undertake the role without having attended university. NUS president Liam Burns said she is an "amazing deputy who would be an amazing president". Ms Pearce, who counts saving the #163;41 million Care to Learn grants for student parents among her successes in FE, said in her manifesto: "The transformative power of education can't be boiled down to a fight about fees. We need to start looking at the real barriers to education, and the people we should speak to are those who aren't lucky enough to make it into our membership. Millions of young people never get the opportunity to do an apprenticeship in the same way that millions more never go to uni - and under my leadership, (the) NUS will be there to challenge the barriers we've forgotten about."
Minister backs Ucas role in apprenticeships
Higher education minister David Willetts has pledged to investigate whether university admissions body Ucas could take over the promotion of apprenticeships and matching of applicants to vacancies. This follows a proposal by Lord Adonis, first made at the TES-backed London Festival of Education in November and reiterated in the Financial Times this week. Lord Adonis said the move would improve the public understanding of apprenticeships. "It would help give a rocket boost to youth apprenticeships and enable school-leavers to apply both for university and apprenticeship places in tandem," he said. Mr Willetts told the Financial Times: "This is a great idea. This would provide as clear and straightforward a route into apprenticeships as there is into university. It is just what young people need."
Brickie who became principal builds to retirement
Stephen Grix, the principal of MidKent College and former chief inspector of FE, is reducing his role at the college before retirement after suffering serious health problems last year. The college has announced that it is searching for a new principal for September 2013, while Mr Grix will remain in a strategic role as chief executive until 2015, when the roles will be merged again. Mr Grix left school at 16 with no qualifications, before becoming an apprentice bricklayer at MidKent College. Later he became a lecturer in bricklaying and an inspector. He led FE inspections for Ofsted between 2000 and 2002, then worked as director of education for the London borough of Tower Hamlets before taking over at MidKent in 2005. "I am extremely proud of everything that has been achieved during my time at the college and look forward to welcoming a new principal to build on the many successes we have experienced over the last few years," he said.
First 'outstanding' college named under new system
Walsall Adult and Community College, a local authority provider, has become the first FE provider to receive an outstanding grade from Ofsted since the new framework for inspection and short-notice periods were introduced in September. The 7,000-student college received grade 1 ratings in 23 out of 24 inspected areas, improving on its earlier overall rating of "good". Inspectors praised the college's work on equality, sustainability and involvement with the community - for example, its development of a social care centre offering opportunities to people with learning difficulties. "Learners make outstanding progress. Many have not engaged in learning since leaving school and have low starting points; however, because of outstanding teaching and support they do extremely well," inspectors said.