AoC chief resigns in wake of review

22nd June 2007 at 01:00

THE CHIEF executive of the Association of Colleges, John Brennan, has resigned as the organisation he runs seeks to reinvent itself for the future.

Mr Brennan said that the changes proposed would take years to implement and that it would be better if he stepped down in August, before his planned retirement date, to allow one person to mastermind the organisation's transformation.

He said: "I thought about what is best for me and what is best for the association. I would have expected to go in a year or so anyway."

His resignation came just days after the publication of a review by former college principals Helen Gilchrist and George Bright of the future strategy of the AoC.

It recommends a name change to Colleges England, alongside the creation of a new post of president, to work with the chief executive as the public and political voice of the organisation. Principals should be given more say than governors, it added.

The report said the AoC has been limited by a failure to adapt to changes in FE and outlines reforms to help it cope with increased fragmentation and specialisation.

The association also faced embarrassment last year, when one of its companies was forced to close with debts of almost pound;1million.

Workforce Development was supposed to connect colleges to businesses in need of training.

Mr Brennan said the association, now 10 years old, was a powerful force and played down competition from the 157 Group, a collection of large, successful colleges which has grown close to ministers.

"I'm not aware we have been excluded from anything. We are represented on every group you can think of," he said.

"I don't have a problem with any groups within the sector. We are very diverse and naturally some colleges will say they have interests separate from other groups, as long as we recognise the sector is strongest when united.

"I think the AoC has served its membership extremely well. Pound for pound it has punched well above its weight."

The Government's pledge to reduce the funding gap between colleges and schools, and ultimately eliminate it, was among the AoC's most important achievements while he was chief executive, Mr Brennan said.

"It wasn't about money - it was about quality and fairness and the place of colleges in the education system. For that to be acknowledged is important," he said.

Mr Brennan plans to retire to his home in Wiltshire and spend more time with his family, including visiting grandchildren in Australia.

John Bingham, chairman of the AoC board, said Mr Brennan was right to let a successor start reshaping the organisation and thanked him for his contribution.

He said: "He has played a major part in establishing AoC as the voice of FE, in shaping the policy agenda for our sector, and in leading the association though the challenges which have faced it over the last few years."

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