News at a glance

3rd August 2012 at 01:00

FE at the Olympic opening ceremony

Staff and students from east London colleges played a starring role in Danny Boyle's epic opening ceremony for the London 2012 Olympics. The principal of Havering College, Noel Otley, who retires at the end of the month, performed as a rustic in the "green and pleasant land" opening section. "It was brilliant," said Mr Otley, who will be succeeded by Maria Thompson, his deputy. "It was strange because as you were performing you knew what your cues were, such as when to look at Kenneth Branagh as he was making the speech. But at the same time you could just stand there on the set (and) soak in the atmosphere in the stadium." Former NewVIc performing arts student Henrique Costa (pictured) had a larger role as Frankie, the boy who wins a girl's heart in a frenetic journey through five decades of pop. Nine students from Hackney Community College's performing arts and circus skills courses also played a part, aided by two staff. And Hackney senior lecturer Brian Brinckley, a former bronze medallist in swimming, took the stage with other GB Olympians.

Surrey extends free meals to colleges

Surrey County Council has agreed to pay for free meals in colleges to ensure that teenagers from poor backgrounds are not disadvantaged by choosing FE instead of a school sixth form. From September, the programme will fund 400 students whose family income is below #163;16,190, as part of the county's efforts to prevent teenagers from becoming Neet (not in education, employment or training). Surrey cabinet member Kay Hammond said: "Our aim is to do all we can to create opportunities that prepare today's young people for a successful future. Many young people want to take more vocational courses and our scheme means money worries about food won't be part of career choices." The decision follows the Association of Colleges' campaign, launched earlier this year, for central government to fund free meals in colleges.

Two-thirds of colleges close courses

Nearly two-thirds of colleges have closed courses as a result of funding cuts, according to a Unison survey. After Freedom of Information requests were made to all 248 colleges, more than 60 per cent said they had closed courses, ranging from aerospace engineering to construction and from A levels to part-time adult learning. Nearly 70 per cent had also seen admissions fall. Jon Richards, Unison national secretary for education, said: "In these tough times, the need for education and training has never been greater, yet our survey has highlighted the devastating impact government funding cuts are having on our further education college staff and students."

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