AoC elects its first president

15th February 2008 at 00:00

One of the country's most successful principals has been elected to become the first president of the Association of Colleges.

David Collins, who runs South Cheshire College, will help lead the association after a reorganisation designed to bring it closer to its members.

He said one of his priorities in the newly created post will be to ensure that a wider range of principals have access to ministers and influence over policy-making as it affects further education.

"I am absolutely delighted and honoured to be able to represent the AoC and the sector," he said.

"The AoC has had a very long look at how it has been involving its members, and the changes which are now in place mean there will be a more dynamic organisation.

"In the past, there has been a tendency not to use all the skills of its members, and a filtering process - albeit unintentional - in terms of who ministers get to talk to."

His college, in Crewe, is seen by Ofsted as one of the best performers for the quality of management and the performance of students.

Mr Collins has been an outspoken voice on FE and believes colleges need to support government objectives, but not if they lose sight of their own strengths.

He has resisted the increased flexibility programme, which places school pupils in college part-time, a policy he sees as a distraction from his college's priorities in providing high-quality post-16 education.

He coined an anagram for the Learning and Skills Council - "null skill ad hoc intransigence" - and once told FE Focus: "I might be kissing goodbye to the knighthood and the CBE."

In fact, he went on to be awarded the CBE after his college was praised by Ofsted as a national success story. It claimed the title of "best college in the country" when it was graded outstanding in 13 out of 16 areas in 2005. Mr Collins also published a book, The Survival Guide for College Managers and Leaders, in which he shared his ideas with colleagues in the FE system.

He attracted 85 per cent of the 228 colleges' votes for the presidency. His opponent was Robin Parkinson, principal of Great Yarmouth College in Norfolk.

The presidency is a "half-time" position, which is open only to serving college principals.

John Bingham, chair of the AoC, said: "As president, David will be a key ambassador for the AoC and the sector, further enhance our work in reputation building and influencing. Championing colleges as a major contributor to the economic and social prosperity of the United Kingdom will be central to the role."

Mr Collins' previous roles include vice-principal of Sandwell College; department head at Redditch College; acting as a trouble-shooter in five colleges during their recovery; and a spell in prison - in a purely professional capacity as education co-ordinator.

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