Award-winning regional college group Education Partnership North East (EPNE) has been recognised by Microsoft for its innovative approach to digital teaching and learning. 

The group, which comprises Hartlepool Sixth Form, Sunderland College and Northumberland College, has been accepted into the tech giants’ Showcase Incubator School Programme after undergoing an ambitious digital transformation throughout its curriculum and campuses. 

EPNE joins a global community of pioneering education providers and will be supported by Microsoft on its digital journey with expert guidance from edtech specialists through webinars and workshops over the next 12 months leading to ‘graduating’ as a Showcase School. 

Dan Fitzpatrick, Strategic Lead for Digital Skills and Learning Innovation, said: “We are honoured that Microsoft has accepted Education Partnership North East into their global programme that prepares colleges for educational transformation. 

“Being chosen to be part of the Showcase Incubator Programme recognises some of the great work we have already done and will help us continue to integrate digital in all that we do to enable our students and staff to succeed in an increasing digital world.” 

Over the past year, EPNE has become an industry-leading digital hub, installing an award-winning Immersive Space as part of a multi-million-pound redevelopment programme at Sunderland College’s Bede Campus. 

The state-of-the-art teaching and learning environment – developed by leading, shared immersive spaces company Igloo Vision – has allowed teaching staff to transform their practice and provide better learning experiences, and improve participation, retention and aspirations. 

The fully integrated seven-metre cylinder with full wraparound wall and floor projection creates shared immersive VR environments for students studying a range of T Level and vocational subjects including health and social care, construction, engineering and digital production, while also supporting the delivery of digitally informed therapies for young people with special educational needs and disabilities. 

Immersive Spaces will also be installed at the college’s specialist technical City Campus, at Hartlepool Sixth Form’s campus, and at Northumberland College’s new campus in the heart of Ashington, thanks to funding support from the Department for Education’s T Level Capital Fund (TLCF). 

The group’s colleges have also hosted digital festivals and skills expos to showcase the exciting and wide range of career opportunities available in the digital sector, and the latest technology, and help young people understand the skills required to build successful personal and working lives.  

Luis Barbeiro, Education Communities Manager at Microsoft, added: “Congratulations to Education Partnership North East and welcome to the Incubator Path Programme. We are looking forward to working together in your transformation journey.” 

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