News at a glance

22nd May 2015 at 01:00

Bills mount up for staff on `casual' contracts

More than half of college staff on flexible contracts have struggled to pay household bills, according to a new survey. The University and College Union (UCU) poll of more than 600 staff on "casual" contracts finds that 56 per cent have had problems with paying bills including fuel, 35 per cent with paying their mortgage or rent and 20 per cent with paying for food. UCU general secretary Sally Hunt said: "Staff starting their careers today are more likely to have a casual contract than a permanent one and the personal impact of this lack of security is profound and long-lasting." The union is meeting for its annual congress this weekend in Glasgow.

FE commissioner's office likely to cost pound;100K

The FE commissioner's office is expected to cost pound;100,000 a year to run, according to new figures. Information released by the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills reveals that the office is manned by four BIS staff. It says that, based on their average salaries, the cost for resourcing the office for the 2014-15 financial year is expected to be about pound;80,000, rising to about pound;100,000 for 2015-16. David Collins took up the role of FE commissioner in 2014 to tackle poor performance in colleges that were in financial difficulty or graded inadequate by Ofsted.

Cuts spark threat of strike action in Yorkshire

Members of the University and College Union (UCU) could strike at two Yorkshire colleges over plans to cut hundreds of jobs. The union claims that Bradford College wants to make pound;8 million of savings, with 140 staff at risk of losing their jobs. Leeds City College has proposed cutting 146 jobs by making 312 full-time posts redundant and creating 166 new posts. The UCU described the pace and scale of the job losses at the two colleges as "astonishing," and said education in the region would be damaged. It plans to ballot for strike action. Both colleges blamed government cuts and said they hoped to minimise compulsory redundancies as far as possible.

Call to curb crime by prioritising prison learning

The Prisoner Learning Alliance (PLA) has called on the government to reduce crime by improving prison education. The PLA has urged ministers to make education a greater priority in prisons to help reduce the cost of repeat offending, estimated to be between pound;9 billion and pound;13 billion per year. It wants the government to extend the current Offenders' Learning and Skills Service contracts for a year to avoid the disruption of re-procurement, and to make them more flexible so that prisons can meet a wider variety of learning needs. The PLA has come up with eight suggestions for improving prison education, including better use of technology, enriching the curriculum through partnership with charities and a more effective process to engage "hard-to-reach" prisoners.

Quality of distance learning course questioned

An FE college has been criticised for developing a higher education distance learning partnership with "unwarranted haste". The Quality Assurance Agency for Higher Education (QAA) launched an investigation into Sussex Coast College Hastings after concerns were raised about an HNC in business management, delivered through distance learning with Acquire Learning. Areas of concern included recruitment of students and management of the partnership. The QAA report says recruiting to the programme at "such a rapid rate" was not advisable. Clive Cooke, principal of the college, said that many of the concerns had already been addressed and the college had submitted an action plan to implement all eight QAA recommendations by the end of the academic year.

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