On the 31st January 2020 Stephenson College will merge with Brooksby Melton College to create the SMB Group. The legal entity of Stephenson College will cease but our brand will remain, as will that of Brooksby Melton College, both contained within the newly created SMB Group. However, this merger will be a Type B merger enabled by the dissolution of Stephenson College and the continuance of Brooksby Melton College, with it’s name being changed to the SMB Group, a decision which has been agreed as a consequence of the ease of the transfer of the Stephenson estate in comparison to the estate of which Brooksby Melton college is comprised.

It is timely to reflect on the contributions of our college to the new entity and to consider some of the opportunities that will be created. To do this it will be appropriate to contextualise Stephenson College within the further education system today and our journey from our creation as the Coalville Mining and Technical Institute in 1924.

The original intention of our college was to produce technically proficient operatives for the mining industry and whilst that industry is indelibly linked to our area through the name of our town, it no longer dominates our locality. As a college however our work in training high quality technicians continues, predominately in the vocational areas of construction and heavy vehicle engineering and our college name was changed in recognition of our heritage to Stephenson College, inspired by George Stephenson the pioneering engineer who worked for a time in North West Leicestershire. The delivery of our courses is enabled through the expertise of our staff, our industry standard facilities in our building on Thornborough Road, opened by HRH Prince Edward in 2007, to which we relocated from Bridge Road in 2005, and our key employer partnerships.

It is the latter of these that differentiates Stephenson College from other colleges in the further education system and allows a college of our relatively modest size to “punch above our weight”. The strength of our college has always been to consider quality as our key objective. We are graded as a “Good” college by Ofsted in 2017 and we continue to self-assess as a “Good” college. Our contribution to our locality and region is maintained through a range of courses for learners of all abilities and the reach of our activities extends across our country with our Distance Learning programmes being evaluated by Ofsted as “Outstanding”. In 2018 we were awarded the Times Educational Supplement’s Employer Engagement College of the year in recognition of our partnerships and it is our alignment to priority areas identified by governments and our Local Enterprise Partnership of Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) apprenticeships that is the basis of our business model.

The funding associated with these courses reflects their priority and has enabled our college to obtain a financial health grade of “Outstanding” with a maximum score of 300 points for our final financial year. This score is produced by our zero borrowing, our profitability and over £5 million of cash reserves. This position enables our college to contribute positively to the new entity of which we will be a part and created the agility with which we were able to respond to the opportunity of a merger that will strengthen each college and produce a college fit for the future.

The success of our business model can be extended, although in order to do this we need to be a part of a larger entity, with additional facilities and opportunities to develop new accommodation. The assets and alignment of cultures present Brooksby Melton College as an excellent partner for our college. The proposed strategic plan for the new entity outlines how the SMB Group will embrace the future through courses designed to address our climate crisis and how our enhanced resources will enable us to continue to “punch above our weight” locally, regionally and nationally.

Our college established the Stephenson Studio School in 2011 and we are proud to sponsor the opportunities our school provides for young people from our area, some of who may not have had such experiences but for their exposure to the care, encouragement and attention received within our school. The sponsorship of our school will be passed to our new entity, with the consequence that the opportunities afforded to young people will be extended.

Stephenson College has been fortunate to have partners, students, staff and governors who have valued how together we have been able to enrich the lives of those fortunate enough to have belonged to our Stephenson Community. Our mission of Excellence and Innovation in Learning has been underpinned by our values of striving to be the best; being the college of choice, using our resources to the benefit of our students and of helping each other and our environment.

We are a successful college of which we can be proud, with the contributions of everyone associated with Stephenson College positioning it so well to take advantage of our future, a future enabled by our past.