The Guildford College Group has selected Activate Learning as its merger partner in a move that will initiate a new phase of development and secure the future of the Surrey-based colleges: Guildford College, Merrist Wood and Farnham Sixth Form College.
The three colleges under the Guildford College Group umbrella will join with Activate Learning’s existing colleges Reading College, City of Oxford College and Banbury and Bicester College, along with Bracknell & Wokingham College which is due to join Activate Learning in August 2018. Activate Learning has extensive, positive experience of bringing colleges together, including major mergers in 2003 and 2010 as well as a history of successfully creating and taking on schools and training businesses. Both Activate Learning and Bracknell & Wokingham College have been awarded Good ratings from Ofsted this year.
John Denning, Chairman of Governors at The Guildford College Group said: “This new partnership is very good news for the Guildford College Group. It’s all about securing the future while protecting the heritage of our long-established colleges. This new venture will secure a great future for the group and is an opportunity for a new lease of life that will benefit our learners, staff, local communities and employers we serve.”
Chris Jones, Chairman of Governors at Activate Learning, said: “This is great news for our learners, staff, businesses and local communities in Surrey, Berkshire and Oxfordshire. Working together we will give our learners a wider range of career pathways, give local businesses greater access to talent, provide greater opportunities for our staff and build a group of colleges that are stronger together and even greater assets to our communities.”
Jacki Hughes, Principal of The Guildford College Group, said: “The new group will create growth opportunities through a clear strategic direction with the ability to win new contracts and secure new business; have more influence in shaping the learning and skills agenda both regionally and nationally and achieve stability for both organisations, and all this will ensure we better meet the needs of our learners”.
Sally Dicketts, Chief Executive of Activate Learning, said: “This exciting new venture will be stronger and more sustainable, providing benefits to learners, staff, businesses and the community through its greater scale and negotiating power, sharing of expertise and resources, greater combined expertise around teaching, learning and assessment and combined group services.”
Benefits of Merger
For learners, the merger of the two groups will mean more choice and opportunities through an expanded curriculum with cohesive career pathways. Learners will enjoy a better learning experience as a result of the shared focus on developing learning and teaching and through improved learning environments. They will also benefit from improved links with employment because of greater involvement of businesses in designing and delivering the learning experience.
For businesses, the merger means the opportunity to work with a national provider of apprenticeships specialising in leadership training as well as opportunities to shape the workforce of the future and directly influence the talent pipeline for their sector and business and access to a wider pool of potential employees
For staff this will be a fresh start with a new focus on the future, with the benefits of being part of a successful, ambitious organisation focused on changing lives through learning. The merger will bring stability to the colleges, greater professional development opportunities and promotion and progression opportunities across the group
For the community, the merger will provide continued, and improved local provision with protected further education for Guildford, Worplesdon and Farnham, building on the three college’s long-established heritage. The new group will offer contemporary provision with more choice.
There will now be a process of consultation and due diligence. Activate Learning and The Guildford College Group will be publishing their plans in a joint public consultation document later in the year to set out the benefits that working together will bring to individuals, businesses and local communities and to provide people with the chance to give their views. There will also be a formal consultation process with staff. Following the consultation, the Corporation Boards will decide on whether to proceed with the merger with a target date towards the end of the year.