My View, Catherine Parkinson: College must work with the community

Catherine Parkinson, Doncaster College
Catherine Parkinson, Doncaster College

I was involved in developing a community involvement strategy for Doncaster College in 2012 and since then have watched with interest as the associated action plan has been implemented.

Several things spring to mind when I look back at the reason for, and subsequent impact of, that strategy.

Doncaster College

Doncaster College

I remember considering the national requirement for colleges to become more involved in their communities.

A report had said as educational establishments and significant employers there was a need to ensure colleges responded effectively to the needs and requirements of their local and wider communities and were not solely focused on those activities and programmes of study that attracted national funding.

Alongside this was the requirement for colleges to publish a public value statement.

Several approaches were taken to this; some highlighting the economic benefit delivered by their colleges in quantifiable and measurable terms, some highlighting the social impact, some making reference to both and others focusing on the educational attainment of their students and how this would benefit them and their communities.

Some went a stage further, as Doncaster chose to do, by developing a strategy to signify the importance of community involvement in college life and work.

All served a useful purpose in drawing attention to the impact of colleges on their communities.

This was a good time to step back and consider communities again.

After all many of us have benefited from the sense of cohesion that close communities have.

My experience has left me in no doubt that the more involvement colleges have with their communities, the greater the mutual benefits.

Socially and economically it makes sense and at the same time colleges are better appreciated and understood for the work that they do.

Of course, the scope of the strategy, the reach of that strategy within the community and the commitment of staff to actively engage with it will determine the degree of success that is seen.

In Doncaster, five strategic themes focus activity on increasing access to the college physical environment and resources, sharing and exchanging knowledge and skills, contributing to civic agendas, being good neighbours and promoting and supporting educational opportunities.

For colleges, community involvement serves to remind us we have a real and positive impact on the economic and social environment.

Above all, let us not forget we have a collective responsibility for improving the skills base and life chances of our respective communities and for developing local and global citizenship.

* Catherine Parkinson, Doncaster College deputy principal strategy and resources