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Collaborators not competitors

Suddenly community groups and charities have an important part to play in implementing government policy. On social inclusion, for instance. But are they ready for such work? And does it fall to FE to fill the training gaps? Martin Whittaker reports

I would say that the voluntary sector has a particular role to play in terms of widening participation and in giving access to groups that are harder to reach.

There is a small ethnic minority population in Yeovil, which is particularly difficult to reach. A voluntary group, Learning Voices, was formed 18 months ago and has more recently begun to build links with the college. And we are now running English as a second language and IT provision. I think those sorts of links are invaluable.

In terms of large na-tional voluntary groups, I can't think that this collee has very strong links - that might just be our geography or history. If the college were approached by such a voluntary group, I would see them as potential collaborators, not as potential competitors.

There's no doubt for some adults and others that colleges as institutions present themselves as barriers. Some people are not attracted to college immediately, and the groups that reach out into some of those communities are in the voluntary sector.

I think it would be good if it were organised in such a way that it complemen-ted and collaborated with colleges. It's probably up to both sides.

But at this stage the voluntary sector needs to become well-organised, but it also needs to be-gin to make strategic links with colleges.

Richard Atkins is the principal of Yeovil College, South Somerset

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