News at a glance

29th March 2013 at 00:00

Lecturers are hungry for change on free meals

Members of the Association of Teachers and Lecturers (ATL) have backed the campaign to provide free meals for deprived students in FE colleges. A motion in support of the campaign passed unanimously at the union's conference in Liverpool this week. A survey of 300 members working in school and college sixth forms found that 70 per cent believed students were going hungry because they had no way of paying for lunch. More than one in five teachers said they had offered to pay for students' lunches out of their own pockets. One sixth-form college teacher said they had seen students faint from hunger. Mary Bousted, ATL's general secretary, said: "It is blatantly unfair that disadvantaged young people in sixth-form and FE colleges are denied free meals when those in school sixth forms get them. It's high time the government rectified this injustice and treated all young people equally."

Space higher apprenticeship is out of this world

Science and HE minister David Willetts launched the UK's first higher apprenticeship in space engineering at Loughborough College last week. Starting in September, the college hopes to train 250 apprentices a year by 2015, providing staff for Britain's #163;9 billion space industry. The two-year course will enable apprentices to gain a foundation degree while receiving workplace training. It follows Loughborough's level 3 space engineering course, launched last year. "The UK space industry is a major success story," Mr Willetts said. "To build on this achievement we need to maintain a good supply of talented scientists and engineers. This new higher apprenticeship is the first of its kind. It will provide people with the advanced skills and knowledge to drive growth and innovation in the space sector, keeping Britain ahead in the global race."

College is first to gain 'outstanding' grade

Walsall College has become the first general FE college to gain an "outstanding" rating under the new inspection framework. Inspectors praised the high standards and expectations of teachers, which resulted in work from students that was "well above the standard expected for the course". Average success rates for all age groups on all courses rose by more than 10 percentage points in the two years up to 2010-11, from 77 per cent to 87.5 per cent. "Teachers set very high standards, have very high expectations and use their vocational skills and expertise to make lessons motivating, interesting and memorable," inspectors said. "Lessons are well planned, engaging and enable students to make rapid progress and achieve well." The inspectors also praised the college's "relentless" focus on quality assurance.

Half of students worry about cost of living

Research by the National Union of Students (NUS) has found that 30 per cent of FE students have considered dropping out of their course because of financial problems, and half of all students regularly worry that they will not be able to afford basic living expenses. The research came as students across the country held demonstrations calling for the #163;30-a-week education maintenance allowance (EMA) to be restored. "For the majority of students in receipt of EMA, the money they received kept them in education and helped them to sustain a decent, healthy life," said Toni Pearce, NUS vice-president for FE. The NUS is calling for FE students to receive similar support to the HE maintenance grant. "It's not the level or stage of education that should determine how much money you receive to support yourself, it's how much you need," Ms Pearce said.

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