The overall Leading Light winner from the prestigious national Association of Colleges (AoC) Beacon Awards has gone to the Grimsby Institute.

It was chosen by Baroness Sharp of Guildford, President of the AoC Charitable Trust from the 12 AoC Beacon Award 2016/17 winning colleges.

Grimsby Institute had initially won the Beacon Award for Widening Participation in Learning. It was recognised for making higher education “more accessible and tailored to the employment needs of the local community”.

The judges praised the college, for example for the 24-hour opening of the higher education building and its facilities.

An AoC spokesperson explained: “Students are offered the possibility of Skyping staff late in the evening, allowing them the flexibility to study when it is convenient for them.”

Debra Gray, principal of Grimsby Institute, said: “We’re absolutely thrilled to have won. It’s all down to the hard work of our staff and students. It proves that deprivation doesn’t have to be a barrier.

“Some colleges use deprivation as a reason for failure, but it’s our reason to succeed. Those students need more support because they don’t have the start that others may have had.”

The judges said that with the FE sector looking for different approaches to attract and retain hard-to-reach HE students, “this project offers many strategies that will be of interest to many colleges in the sector”.

Baroness Sharp said: “At a time when FE is being encouraged to diversify into higher education and to concentrate on providing higher level qualifications in technical areas, to work with local employers in doing so and to meet the need for adult training and retraining, it does strike me as an exemplary scheme.”

The college received its certificate from Dame Pat Bacon, chair of the AoC Beacon Awards, at an event in London.

The list of Beacon Award winners for 2016/17:

  • Bridgend College – AQA Award for Development of Transferable Skills
  • Calderdale College – AoC Award for College Engagement with Employers
  • Gateshead College – Careers and Enterprise Company Award for Careers Education and Guidance
  • Coleg Sir Gâr – City & Guilds Award for Staff Development
  • Activate Learning – Edge Award for Practical Teaching and Practical Learning
  • Truro and Penwith College – Education and Training Foundation Award for Leadership and Governance
  • Grimsby Institute – Gateway Qualifications Award for Widening Participation in Learning
  • Reading College – Jisc Award the Effective use of Technology in Further Education          
  • Chichester College – Microlink and AoC Charitable Trust Award for Inclusive Learning
  • Cardiff and Vale College – Pearson Award for the Promotion and Delivery of Successful Apprenticeships
  • Ashton Sixth Form College – Skills and Education Group Award for College/School Partnerships
  • Weymouth College – Vtct Award for Sport in the Curriculum.

Cap: Grimsby Institute Principal Debra Gray (red top, centre) and her team receive their AoC Beacon Awards Leading Light award at a ceremony in London

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