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New AoC president pledges to fight for FE in run-up to general election

The principal of an award-winning FE college is set to take over as president of the Association of Colleges, it has been announced.

Richard Atkins, principal of Exeter College, which was named FE provider of the year at the 2012 TES FE Awards, will step into the role in August when current president Michele Sutton stands down after her one-year term.

Mr Atkins, who describes himself as a “passionate supporter of the sector”, said he will act as an “advocate for colleges” in the run-up to the 2015 general election.

“The years following the election will continue to be fiscally tight and our sector has already been the hardest hit, both provision for 16 to 18-year-olds and the adult skills budget,” he said.

“I’ll be lobbying all of the main parties to make it clear that we want to see fairness and transparency; they can’t continue to squeeze the adaptive layer in the middle while protecting schools and universities.

“The role of colleges has changed in recent years with some launching academies, university technical colleges and career colleges, but we can’t continue to do more with less.

“I’ll be calling on the government to provide a clearer strategic vision of what they see as our role over the next three to five years.”

Mr Atkins worked at Harrods before changing tack and studying to be a teacher, holding posts in schools and colleges in York, Surrey and Sussex before becoming principal of Yeovil College 19 years ago.

In 2002 he took up his current post at Exeter, and has held a number of national positions during this time, including sitting on AoC’s board from 2007-2013 and as a commissioner on the Commission for Adult and Vocational Teaching and Learning.

Exeter College, which was established in 1970 as the first tertiary college in the UK, was judged as outstanding by Ofsted in January 2014.

In 2012 it won a brace of gongs at the TES FE awards, taking home the outstanding leadership in learning and skills award and the top prize of FE provider of the year.

Martin Doel, AoC chief executive, said Mr Atkins will bring “drive and expertise” to the role.

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