Education Partnership North East has been named as a finalist in the prestigious Association of College’s (Aoc) Beacon Awards for its innovative approach to practical teaching and learning. 

The group, which includes Sunderland College, Northumberland College and Hartlepool Sixth Form, has been shortlisted in the Edge Award for Excellence in Real World Learning category, supported by the Edge Foundation, with the winner set to be announced in Spring 2024. 

All finalists for the 2023-24 Beacon Awards were revealed at the AoC’s Annual Conference in Birmingham this month, an event which showcases and promotes the far-reaching impact of colleges on their students and the communities they serve.  

Sheree Rymer, Creative, Digital and Computing Faculty Director at Sunderland College, said: “We are delighted that EPNE have been named a finalist, in the Edge Award for Excellence in Real World Learning.   

“In our relentless pursuit of finding innovative ways to ensure students are exposed to real world learning and industry, we have developed ‘Cultural & Social Capital’ as an initiative to explore this further.  

“For EPNE, being finalists demonstrates that our intent for real world learning, has proven to be a successful and dynamic way of invigorating the curriculum and engaging students.” 

When judging the entries, assessors looked for initiatives which developed a curriculum which enables learners to have experiences that are real, meaningful, challenging and life changing, as well as demonstrating innovative best practice and excellent engagement with employers and local communities. 

EPNE highlighted the success of the Cultural and Social Capital Project for Creative Arts, Performance, Computing and NextGen students, which embraces the ethos of creating opportunities by fostering a whole curriculum area approach, over the lifespan of the project, championing equality, diversity and inclusion. Cross subject area collaboration through the project has students gaining a wealth of experiences in real world settings with experts. 

The finalists will now be visited by assessors over the coming months, where they will demonstrate the evidence provided in their submissions. The winners are to be announced in February 2024. 

Mark White CBE DL, Chair of AoC’s Charitable Trust said “The AoC Beacon Awards showcase exactly why colleges are so important to every community and why people value them. This award recognises the critical role undertaken by boards, governors and governance professionals developing capacity for sustained improvement in the quality of provision for students.” 

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