Education Partnership North East (EPNE) is the first college group in the region to become a College of Sanctuary (CoS) in recognition of its work to welcome refugees and help them settle and thrive within local communities.

The award-winning group, which includes Sunderland College, Northumberland College, and Hartlepool Sixth Form College, committed to a pledge of providing support to people seeking sanctuary in the UK, raise awareness of the issues facing people in the asylum system, challenge misconceptions and build social cohesion.

The College of Sanctuary status was awarded by City of Sanctuary UK, a nationally coordinated network of organisations and services in every area and in every sector, including councils, universities, theatres and libraries that encourage inclusivity, compassion and solidarity with refugees and people seeking sanctuary.

Vice Principal of Curriculum at Education Partnership North East, Kendra Kirby, said: “Being awarded the prestigious status of College of Sanctuary solidifies the EPNE college group’s commitment to the development of a sustainable culture of welcome for our students who are seeking sanctuary.

“This award enables us to truly recognise the contribution and achievement of our sanctuary seeking student community and continue to raise positive awareness.”
Colleges of Sanctuary is an initiative to celebrate the good practice of FE Colleges who foster a culture of welcome and belonging for all.

As a college group, EPNE is committed to supporting the College of Sanctuary’s charter and organisational values, including inclusivity, openness, participation, inspiration, and integrity, so that they can play a significant role in the region, to support building a more welcoming environment for people seeking sanctuary and migrants to the UK.

Sara Trewhitt, Director of Operations at College of Sanctuary said: “CoS UK is delighted that Sunderland College, Northumberland College and Hartlepool Sixth Form within EPNE have all been recognised as Colleges of Sanctuary and join the growing network of FE institutions committed to supporting people seeking sanctuary across the UK.

“Each of the member Colleges demonstrated an incredibly rich provision for new arrivals, with notable academic, pastoral, extracurricular help to ensure their learners can thrive as they settle into their local communities. This is a tremendous achievement on the part of the EPNE group and we look forward to celebrating their work with the wider FE community in the months to come.”

By signing the pledge and being awarded the College of Sanctuary status, EPNE endorses the City of Sanctuary Charter and agree to act in accordance with City of Sanctuary values and apply the network principles within their work.

The college group works alongside many external agencies to ensure that students are aware of what support there is in the community and to support inclusion and belonging, such as Friends of the Drop in (FODI) – which aims to improve the mental health and wellbeing of asylum seeking and refugees in the area, and Young Asian Voices (YAV) – which is a multicultural youth and community project.

Through the establishment of a Strategic Sanctuary Steering Group which reports into the Inclusion and Vulnerable Groups Committee, and appointment of College of Sanctuary Champions across the EPNE, awareness and the profile of sanctuary seeking students has been significantly impacted.

‘Speak Up for Sanctuary Roadshows’ have been developed and rolled out across the group to continue with raising awareness and are currently developing a ‘Conversational Cafe’ concept to encourage those with lived experiences in relation to sanctuary, to come together to further raise awareness and develop community cohesion and inclusion.

As a learning institution, colleges have an important role in fostering a culture of safety, respect and understanding for new students who are seeking sanctuary and can lead by example locally.

Being a College of Sanctuary means recognising and celebrating the achievements of students seeking sanctuary, as well as raising awareness across the college community.

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