News at a glance

2nd March 2012 at 00:00

Panel to investigate quality of apprenticeships

Skills minister John Hayes announced a new inquiry panel to deal with complaints about apprenticeship quality, as officials revealed that 29 providers have improved their courses after a review by the National Apprenticeship Service (NAS). A further 58 providers have come under scrutiny, and the NAS and Skills Funding Agency (SFA) report that they have serious concerns about 10 prime providers and three subcontractors. The subcontractors have been sacked. One case has been referred to the SFA's special investigations unit so far. If provision is judged not to meet the required standards, the funding agency can require providers to improve or adapt provision, or it can withdraw funding. "We must be relentless in our drive to ensure all apprenticeships are as good as the best," said Mr Hayes.

Colleges rewarded in Queen's Anniversary prizes

Three colleges were presented with medals and certificates from the Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh last week to mark their selection for the Diamond Jubilee round of the Queen's Anniversary prizes. Coleg Llandrillo Cymru in North Wales was recognised for its innovative approach to catering and hospitality training, Hackney Community College in east London won for its work helping people with mental health problems into education and employment, and South Nottingham College was rewarded for its work in deprived communities and the developing world. It is the ninth time the biennial prizes have been awarded, with the aim of celebrating work that is "making a real and practical impact for the benefit of human progress".

Institute for Learning extends concessionary fees

The Institute for Learning (IfL) has increased the number of members who are eligible for its lower rate of membership fees. A concessionary rate of #163;25 a year is available for FE teachers earning less than #163;8,105 a year, starting in April 2012. Those earning less than #163;16,190 are eligible for a lower fee of #163;33 a year. The new thresholds are intended to reflect changes in the tax system, but the IfL is also locked in a dispute with the University and College Union, which is urging members to boycott renewing their registration over the compulsory fees. A review by Lord Lingfield aimed at settling the dispute is expected to report its initial findings by May.

Women's boxing programme is an Olympic hit

Bradford College's boxing academy, which last week opened a #163;300,000 centre, has received Olympic recognition. The college's programme for female boxers has been given the "Inspire mark" for innovative projects inspired by the 2012 Games, and the centre will host pre-games training camps for Olympic competitors. Jack Bateson, an advanced apprentice in boxing, has also been selected for the Great Britain development squad, with his sights on the 2016 Games.

Livingstone pledges to reintroduce EMA in London

Labour's candidate for London mayor, Ken Livingstone, has pledged to reintroduce the education maintenance allowance (EMA) for the capital's 16- to 19-year-olds. Mr Livingstone announced yesterday that he would reintroduce the payments of up to #163;30 a week to about 85,000 students, funded by school and college budgets with a contribution from local government. The decision will put pressure on Conservative candidate Boris Johnson, who last year distanced himself from the coalition's abolition of the EMA. "I am concerned it will have a significant impact on lots of young people in London," Mr Johnson said. "I do want to have another look at this."

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