News at a glance

24th April 2015 at 01:00

`Committed' leaders praised by Harvard academic

A world-renowned leadership expert has praised UK college principals as "dedicated" and "committed" in the face of considerable challenges. Leaders from the 157 Group of colleges spent two days with Professor Marty Linsky of Harvard University hearing about "adaptive leadership", a framework that helps organisations to adapt and thrive in challenging situations. Professor Linsky told TES he was impressed with the principals, who had retained their optimism despite changing missions and finances. "You can almost substitute FE for the NHS and get the same story," he said. "Both have challenges preserving their historic role and expanding in response to changing times. It's about adaptiveness; in academia there's still a tremendous amount of commitment to the way we used to do business." Professor Linsky was brought over to the UK by the 157 Group to discuss new ideas of leadership at a "critical time" for the FE sector. Principals would need to change their "practice and mindset" to adapt to "uncomfortable" new realities, he said, adding: "What we hope discussions will bring is a realisation about what it will take on their part to lead their institutions through the change and be comfortable with that reality."

Lib Dems aim to double apprenticeship employers

The Liberal Democrats have pledged to double the number of employers offering apprenticeships to young people if they form part of the next government. Business secretary Vince Cable said this would involve 360,000 firms offering work-based learning, with incentives including grants. The party is the latest to join the apprenticeships "arms race": the Conservatives have promised to create 3 million new starts over the course of the next Parliament and Labour has pledged apprenticeships for every school-leaver in England with the required grades. More than 2.2 million apprenticeships have begun under the coalition government.

`Catastrophic' job losses at Birmingham college

Up to 250 jobs could be cut at one of the largest colleges in the West Midlands, it has emerged. Birmingham Metropolitan College, which has about 1,600 staff and 30,000 students, said it needed to reduce costs "significantly" because of government funding cuts. Greater competition in the sector and "demographic factors" had put pressure on student numbers, it added. Between 200 and 250 jobs could go by the end of the academic year. The college hopes to make the cuts through voluntary redundancies. It said it would keep courses running and promised that current students would not be affected. The University and College Union called the projected job losses "catastrophic".

NUS calls for action on cost of living for learners

The National Union of Students has urged political parties to go further in addressing the cost-of-living concerns of FE learners. The union quizzed Conservative, Green, Labour and Liberal Democrat politicians about FE issues in an online hustings event on Twitter last week. However, when the politicians were asked if they would restore the education maintenance allowance (EMA), only Green Party FE spokesman Dave Cocozza said he supported its reintroduction. Labour's Liam Byrne said Labour "won't make promises we can't keep on EMA", but added that lower tuition fees, higher grants, the youth allowance and a rail-fare freeze would tackle living costs. Lib Dem business secretary Vince Cable and Conservative skills minister Nick Boles highlighted the coalition government's new bursary fund for 16- to 19-year-olds, which Mr Boles said provided "targeted support" and Mr Cable said was "more effective and better value" than the EMA.

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