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Students relish meeting top education civil servant

19 October 2022

Crawley College welcomed an opportunity to show the Department for Education’s top civil servant just how further education is changing lives through learning.

On Friday 14 October, the college hosted a visit from Susan Acland-Hood, Permanent Secretary to the Department of Education and the principal policy advisor to the Secretary of State for Education.

As well as speaking to senior leaders including Andrew Green, Chief Executive of the Chichester College Group (which includes Crawley College) about the financial challenges facing the sector and what support colleges really need, she also met with student leaders.

James Pinnock-Johnson is the newly elected student president and he was joined by vice president Sophie Beeden as they spoke to Ms Acland-Hood about their educational journey, aspirations and the role of student voice.

James said: “Student voice at Crawley College is strong and we are listened to. It’s about championing that two-way conversation, which is so important.

“The college is completely different to my experience at a sixth form college, and it’s great because it’s different. FE gives you an incredible journey and I want to push that for the next generation of students who will follow me.

“That’s why I thought it was important to meet Ms Acland-Hood and it was great to be able to talk to her about the issues affecting students and tell our stories.”

Sophie, who has progressed through different courses at the college, told Ms Acland-Hood that: “Being at Crawley College and a part of the student executive has really grown my confidence. Three years ago, I wouldn’t have been able to sit here and talk to anyone.

“But being here, it’s allowed me to grow with the support of the staff around me. And the student executive at the college is empowering more people with disabilities, including hidden disabilities, to get involved with student life and to become comfortable in our disability. We can all be open about who we are.”

During her visit to the college, Ms Acland-Hood toured some of the facilities including the new STEM Centre, Healthcare Simulation Suite and carpentry workshops – meeting both students and staff and chatting to them about their work – before enjoying a lunch made by level one hospitality students.

She said: “It was a pleasure to meet students and staff at Crawley College ahead of Love Our Colleges Week and see all the brilliant work they are doing to boost opportunities for their students.

“Further education is clearly making a huge difference to the lives of young people here, and it was great to hear some of their inspirational stories.

“There are so many great education and training options on offer at Crawley College, including high-quality T Levels and apprenticeships, giving young people the skills they need to succeed and ensuing we can continue to deliver the workforce businesses and the economy need to thrive.”

Andrew Green, Chief Executive of Chichester College Group, added: “It was an honour to meet with Ms Acland-Hood and to showcase the work our incredible students and staff are doing here at Crawley College.

“It’s no secret that the FE sector is facing enormous financial pressures at the moment, and we were able to discuss how this could be addressed – but it was also important to show what we are achieving despite these challenges.

“We also wanted to make sure our students were able to take the opportunity to talk to her about their experiences. We pride ourselves on putting our students at the heart of everything that we do and student voice is part of the fabric of our organisation.”