Martin Doel: 'Fifty colleges will be raising money for Children in Need '

It is a common refrain among education professionals that the contribution of colleges to our economic and social welfare is often overlooked, but the first Colleges Week – from 10-16 November – will swing the spotlight in their direction.

During the week, staff and students in colleges nationwide will celebrate their achievements. The events will also provide opportunities to assess what colleges have in common with and how they differ from other parts of the further-education sector.

The weeks' events, led by the Association of Colleges and the Department for Innovation, Universities & Skills, will focus on five themes to demonstrate the effect colleges have on developing skills, delivering excellence, building strong communities, helping businesses to succeed and transforming lives.

Developing skills is, of course, at the heart of what colleges do, and the week will feature more than 50 of them battling to complete "skills challenges" while raising money for Children in Need, include building a house, making a car, designing an animal enclosure, and giving a hostel for the homeless a makeover.

Priestley College in Warrington – a sixth-form college rated as outstanding by Ofsted – is among those that can claim to deliver on the theme of excellence. It is in the second year of a pioneering project to help under-achieving boys by identifying students through GCSE grades and giving them individual tuition and extra help with A-level and BTEC projects. It raises aspirations, and the boys' marks are already improving.

A college's contribution to a community – as employer, educator, mediator, leisure centre and, sometimes, defender – is often what sets it apart from other further-education providers. The geographical boundaries of that role continue to stretch. IB and AS-level students from Taunton's College in Southampton, for example, helped build a school for a Tanzanian village as part of their studies this summer.

Providing specialist training to companies one of the ways in which colleges benefit business, the fourth theme. The Gloucestershire company Impcross, which makes engine parts for Formula One as well as passenger and military aircraft, is a typical beneficiary. After the workforce grew from five to 85 in 10 years, it turned to Stroud College for management training. Sam Ogden, the firm's production director, commends the college's flexibility, saying, "We could have had the training at night if we'd wanted it". He adds that "instead of just fire-fighting, the staff can put systems into place to make things happen".

Many are the stories of personal transformation that emerge from colleges. Shaun Connelly, for instance, is one of the students vying for the AoC Student of the Year Award. He was among Liverpool supporters caught up in the Hillsborough disaster in 1989, and as a result suffers from loss of concentration and memory problems. He says that he has benefited greatly – in his job and personal life – from the West Cheshire College course specially adapted to improve his skills. It's the first training he has undertaken since his trauma. Inspiring stories such as his will abound during Colleges Week.

The writer is chief executive of the Association of Colleges

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
Jerry Seinfeld Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee
peopleSitcom star urges men to be more supportive of women than ever
Life and Style
Living for the moment: Julianne Moore playing Alzheimer’s sufferer Alice
Jay Z
businessJay-Z's bid for Spotify rival could be blocked
footballLouis van Gaal is watching a different Manchester United and Wenger can still spring a surprise
The spider makes its break for freedom
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Education

Ashdown Group: IT Manager - Salesforce / Reports / CRM - North London - NfP

£45000 per annum: Ashdown Group: An established and reputable Not for Profit o...

Reach Volunteering: External HR Trustee Needed!

Voluntary post, reasonable expenses reimbursed: Reach Volunteering: Would you ...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£20000 - £25000 per annum + OTE £40,000: SThree: SThree have recently been awa...

Ashdown Group: Finance Manager - Covent Garden, central London - £45k - £55k

£45000 - £55000 per annum + 30 days holiday: Ashdown Group: Finance Manager - ...

Day In a Page

War with Isis: Iraq's government fights to win back Tikrit from militants - but then what?

Baghdad fights to win back Tikrit from Isis – but then what?

Patrick Cockburn reports from Kirkuk on a conflict which sectarianism has made intractable
Living with Alzheimer's: What is it really like to be diagnosed with early-onset dementia?

What is it like to live with Alzheimer's?

Depicting early-onset Alzheimer's, the film 'Still Alice' had a profound effect on Joy Watson, who lives with the illness. She tells Kate Hilpern how she's coped with the diagnosis
The Internet of Things: Meet the British salesman who gave real-world items a virtual life

Setting in motion the Internet of Things

British salesman Kevin Ashton gave real-world items a virtual life
Election 2015: Latest polling reveals Tories and Labour on course to win the same number of seats - with the SNP holding the balance of power

Election 2015: A dead heat between Mr Bean and Dick Dastardly!

Lord Ashcroft reveals latest polling – and which character voters associate with each leader
Audiences queue up for 'true stories told live' as cult competition The Moth goes global

Cult competition The Moth goes global

The non-profit 'slam storytelling' competition was founded in 1997 by the novelist George Dawes Green and has seen Malcolm Gladwell, Salman Rushdie and Molly Ringwald all take their turn at the mic
Pakistani women come out fighting: A hard-hitting play focuses on female Muslim boxers

Pakistani women come out fighting

Hard-hitting new play 'No Guts, No Heart, No Glory' focuses on female Muslim boxers
Leonora Carrington transcended her stolid background to become an avant garde star

Surreal deal: Leonora Carrington

The artist transcended her stolid background to become an avant garde star
LGBT History Month: Pupils discuss topics from Sappho to same-sex marriage

Education: LGBT History Month

Pupils have been discussing topics from Sappho to same-sex marriage
11 best gel eyeliners

Go bold this season: 11 best gel eyeliners

Use an ink pot eyeliner to go bold on the eyes with this season's feline flicked winged liner
Cricket World Cup 2015: Tournament runs riot to make the event more hit than miss...

Cricket World Cup runs riot to make the event more hit than miss...

The tournament has reached its halfway mark and scores of 300 and amazing catches abound. One thing never changes, though – everyone loves beating England
Katarina Johnson-Thompson: Heptathlete ready to jump at first major title

Katarina Johnson-Thompson: Ready to jump at first major title

After her 2014 was ruined by injury, 21-year-old Briton is leading pentathlete going into this week’s European Indoors. Now she intends to turn form into gold
Syrian conflict is the world's first 'climate change war', say scientists, but it won't be the last one

Climate change key in Syrian conflict

And it will trigger more war in future
How I outwitted the Gestapo

How I outwitted the Gestapo

My life as a Jew in wartime Berlin
The nation's favourite animal revealed

The nation's favourite animal revealed

Women like cuddly creatures whilst men like creepy-crawlies
Is this the way to get young people to vote?

Getting young people to vote

From #VOTESELFISH to Bite the Ballot