'Outstanding' with no time to spare
The first "no-notice" inspection in FE began on Monday last week at Exeter College, resulting in outstanding grades across the board. The college was one of several that had agreed to take part in the pilot scheme, although it did not know it would definitely be inspected until a call 45 minutes before inspectors arrived. After a week of inspection, the college earned the outstanding grade - including in teaching and learning, which in future will be a requirement for the top grade. Colleges have come under increased scrutiny, with more than half currently rated outstanding overall achieving a lower grade for teaching and learning. "This is an important national accolade for the staff and students of Exeter and the heart of Devon and we are very proud that the college has been tested under such stringent conditions as the first no-notice inspection in the country," said principal Richard Atkins.
Government auditors called in to A4e
A4e, the employment and training provider that has come under fire over alleged financial irregularities in the government's Work Programme, has agreed that Skills Funding Agency (SFA) auditors will help to investigate its training provision. As the SFA announced that A4e had been named as the preferred provider for prison education in London and the East of England, further allegations of financial irregularities in the company's Work Programme provision prompted an audit by the Department for Work and Pensions. The company agreed to an internal audit, and last week the SFA decided that its own auditors would oversee the process. "The agency takes allegations of financial irregularity very seriously. Where the agency receives substantiated allegations of financial irregularities, it will consider whether there are grounds for an investigation to ensure the agency is satisfied that public funds are being protected," the SFA said in a statement.
Farewell to island education
The principal of Highlands College in Jersey, Ed Sallis, has announced his retirement. The 64-year-old started his career as a lecturer in London and the South of England, before reaching the rank of deputy principal at City of Bristol College. He took over the college in the Channel Islands 15 years ago, doubling the number of students and establishing a university centre so that islanders could obtain full honours degrees without having to leave for the UK. He is also visiting professor at Plymouth University and was appointed OBE in 2010. "I have loved every minute of my time in further education. It is one of those careers where you can make a real difference to people's lives," he said.
A report last week on colleges' attempts to cut their carbon emissions ("Iceland offers a cool way to cut energy consumption", TES, 9 March) mistakenly identified Exeter College as one of the institutions that was rated as poorly prepared for the government's Carbon Reduction Commitment in performance tables. In fact, the college is not covered by the commitment and the performance table refers to the University of Oxford college. The Department of Energy and Climate Change had stated that six colleges were covered by the commitment, but only five were listed in the performance table.