A collective of the country’s highest performing colleges received official recognition yesterday at a ceremony held at the House of Commons.
The 157 Group were formally acknowledged by the government in a nod to their growing power and status they have achieved in a short period.
The group take their name from paragraph 157 of the infamous Foster Review. Sir Andrew Foster noted in the paragraph that it would be beneficial if principals from successful colleges played a greater role in helping the Department for Education and Skills boost the reputation of FE.
Speaking to the Education Marketing and PR Association (EMPRA) however, Chairman of the 157 Group Ioan Morgan was quick to dismiss suggestions that the group is rivalling the Association of Colleges (AoC): “Contrary to popular belief we aren”t here to destroy the AoC, but to help make it fit for purpose. In fact the entire 157 Group are members of the AoC”.
“A schism is not what the FE system needs”.
Membership of 157 is restricted to colleges with a minimum turnover of £35 million that have been awarded a minimum a grade 2 for leadership and management at the last Ofsted inspection. The 157 Member Colleges are: Barnet College, Bedford College, Bournemouth and Poole College, Chichester College, City and Islington College, City College Manchester, City of Bristol College, City of Sunderland College, Cornwall College, Ealing, Hammersmith and West London College, Hull College, Lambeth College, MANCAT, Newcastle College, New College Nottingham, Newham College, and Park Lane College in Leeds.
Mr Morgan continued: “We should not be seen as a competitor to the AoC ““ more of a positive contributor, working realistically to help and support the sector, to help colleges improve their quality and to grow. We are not trying to emulate the AoC. Their membership is a diverse group, but a single college in that group – their voice is diluted. Here we are one of 22 instead of one of 400 or so”.
“As a group, 157 is a very powerful voice. We are influential and we can give ammunition to ministers, to help fight our corner. We are a participative group with a proactive approach and we are critically constructive where we think change is needed”.
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