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Colleges need to be more collaborative, says AoC president

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Colleges need to work more collaboratively and share the good practice already existing in the sector, the president of the Association of Colleges has said.

Speaking to TES after his keynote speech at the AoC annual conference in Birmingham, John Widdowson said the skills minister Nick Boles’ comments that the sector could expect further cuts had been “much what we expected”.

However, the principal of New College Durham said he disagreed with the minister’s view that colleges had to be “more flexible” and “quicker off the mark”.  “We need to share the innovation, flexibility and creativity around the sector," he said. "We need to be much more open about how we promote that, and we need to be collaborative.”

He said the minister’s speech had also contained “positive messages,” adding: “He did say he could see a doubling of the number of apprenticeships in colleges, and that is where the money is at the moment. I am not worried about that focus – the majority of the students that come to us are looking for a job at the end of it.” 

However, Mr Widdowson stressed: “Not everyone will get a job immediately, so there has to be something for them to do, and there has to be some sort of re-skilling. There are also around 900,000 16- to 24-year-olds not in education, work or training [Neet]. That shouldn’t go on longer than it has to, and colleges are crucial in that.”

The further education sector was “bloody-minded and determined”, and there was sense of “getting down to it” despite the challenges facing colleges, Mr Widdowson added.

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