Colleges across the country are playing an active part in their local communities, according to a group representing some of the most influential Further Education centres in the UK.
The 157 Group, which represents 28 of the most influential colleges in the FE sector, has published a set of studies looking into the roles that colleges play in their localities.
The group was formed in 2006 in response to a report on the future of FE colleges, in which they argued that principals of large successful colleges should pay a greater role in policy making.
Frank McLoughlin, chair of the 157 Group and principal of City and Islington College, said: “These case studies demonstrate the incredibly positive contribution that colleges make in their local area.
“At a time when we are all being asked to do more for less, we hope that colleges will be given more real freedoms to play a leading role in collaborative arrangements that deliver better services and achieve greater value for money.”
The Leadership of localities study took place across six FE colleges, in Birmingham, Manchester, Sunderland, Sheffield, London and the Midlands.
Debbie Fletcher, executive director at Birmingham Metropolitan College, which is one of the colleges featured in the study, said, “We want to work with the local authority to raise standards and aspirations, It is part of our mission and values to meet the needs of learners and the local economy.”
The Manchester College – another of the colleges featured in the study – currently works with ten local councils, even working alongside regeneration projects.
Vice principal Jack Carney said: “We are actively engaged with all the city’s regeneration companies and sit on their board, as well as those of al the housing associations.”
Lynne Sedgmore, executive director of the 157 Group, said: “The influence of these colleges extends beyond the narrow confines of education and training, to wider social and economic issues – community cohesion, employability, social mobility, inclusion, participation, crime prevention and health.”
“We believe that with more autonomy and flexibility, colleges can make an even greater contribution to the leadership of the local area, helping provide better value for money in local services tailored to local and individual needs.”