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The Chief Executive of Education Partnership North East was invited to Windsor Castle to collect a prestigious Royal honour that recognises her services to education.

Ellen Thinnesen, who was named in the Queen’s New Year 2021 Honours list, attended an investiture ceremony this week where she was officially presented with her OBE by HRH Duke of Cambridge.

Ellen was honoured for her outstanding contribution to education and her work with Sunderland College, Northumberland College and Hartlepool Sixth Form, subsequently creating Education Partnership North East, a regional college group serving diverse communities across the North East of England. Since, curriculum, quality and financial performance across the college group has been transformed.

Across Education Partnership North East’s six main campuses, an ambitious vision and strategic plan has resulted in the transformational alignment of investment and resource to the needs of regional and local industry. Supported by excellent partnerships, this has resulted in the college group leading the skills agenda in sectors such as engineering and manufacturing, construction and housing, health, care and science, digital and land-based industries. A strategic focus on the North East’s disadvantaged and vulnerable students has also been enabled through the creation of an award-winning student and welfare services department, and the development of outstanding provision for young people with Special Education Needs and Disability.

Ellen was appointed Chief Executive and Principal at Sunderland College in 2016 and became Chief Executive of Education Partnership North East in 2019. She chairs the North East Local Enterprise Partnership (NE LEP) Skills Advisory Panel and is also an NE LEP board member. She is a member of the Association of College’s (AoC) Board and actively represents Education Partnership North East on a variety of national, regional and local forums.

Ellen began her career as a qualified nurse working in hospitals in the Yorkshire and Humber and central London, subsequently she lived and studied in the United States, and then returned to England, progressing a career in Further and Higher Education. She has previously held high-profile positions within the education sector in Greater Manchester and the Yorkshire and Humber region. She said:

“The investiture at Windsor Castle was a lovely day! Being among so many dedicated and remarkable people who have had such a significant impact on their communities was a truly memorable and humbling experience.

“I would like to thank the inspirational people that I am privileged to work with every day who have made this a reality. This includes my excellent leadership team and wider college staff, national, regional and local partners and many other supporters and stakeholders.

“There are so many people who have been instrumental in my career and the success of the vision and strategy of Education Partnership North East. The award of my OBE is attributable to my supportive family, but most importantly, to those colleagues, past and present, who have believed in the vision and shown tremendous dedication to the service of others. I am continually grateful for this.”

Rob Lawson, Chair of Governors at Education Partnership North East, said:

“On behalf of the board and all of the staff and students at Education Partnership North East I would like to congratulate Ellen on her investiture at Windsor Castle. It is richly deserved and we’re delighted her inspirational leadership and positive impact within the education sector has been formally recognised. She is an exceptional, charismatic leader and an exemplary ambassador for the further education sector and the North East. We are all extremely proud.”

Why Education Partnership North East (EPNE)?

Highly commended - Employer of the Year, Sunderland Echo Portfolio Awards 2019

Engagement with Employers - Association of Colleges (AoC) Beacon Award 2017

(Sunderland College On-programme Survey 2017)

Selected by DfE for 2021 T Level pilot to deliver the new high-quality technical qualifications.

98% overall employer satisfaction - Employer Survey 2018/19