Education Partnership North East’s commitment to providing an outstanding student experience and curriculum-shaping employer engagement is to be recognised at the prestigious Education North Awards.

The group, one of the largest in the country, is a finalist in the Social Mobility and Student Experience categories for Sunderland College’s ‘Cared For or Caring For’ project, while the Health and Social Care Academy of Excellence has been shortlisted for Best Employer Engagement.

Celebrating excellence and sharing best practice in the education sector, the awards see top universities, colleges, and sixth forms compete across 22 prizes with the winners announced at a special ceremony in Manchester in April.

In its submission for Social Mobility and Student Experience, Education Partnership North East highlighted the success of its ‘Care For or Caring For’ project which uses a tailored approach to give vulnerable or disadvantaged students the opportunity to succeed regardless of their circumstances.

By working in partnership with local schools and organisations, hosting recruitment events and offering specialist support where needed, the college has welcomed almost 200 cared for and caring for young people into Further Education since the initiative was launched in 2017-2018, while reducing the number of those at risk of becoming NEET.

Thriving within an inclusive and supportive environment, 91% of young people in these vulnerable groups went on to an Apprenticeship, Higher Education or further study in the last year, with students praising their positive experience during their time at college.

Vikkie Morton, Vice Principal of Student Services and Registry, said: “We are delighted Cared For or Caring For has been shortlisted at the Education North Awards, which is a testament to the hard-work and dedication of our staff and students across Education Partnership North East.

“Many of our young people have additional responsibilities or face significant barriers that in some cases can be hidden. While many colleges offer generic support systems, we believe in identifying individual needs and implementing specialist support systems is what makes a significant difference to the lives of young people in these vulnerable groups.

“Strong partnership working has been essential, as is the persistence from our staff in developing relationships and acting as advocates to become the means for positive change.”

Since 2019, Sunderland College has been working in partnership with Ford Next Generation Learning (NGL), the Edge Foundation and North East LEP to enhance employer engagement and real-world learning, which led to the Health and Social Care Academy of Excellence being established.

Bringing education and employers closer together to develop the health and social care workforce of the future, the Academy ensures young people and adults have the skills and behaviours to be ‘work ready’ when they complete their studies.

The College works closely with employers and regional stakeholders including NHS trusts, local housing associations and care organisations to create a 21st century curriculum that is aligned to the sectors’ current and future needs, drawing on decades of experience and expertise to co-design and co-deliver programmes, arrange guest speakers and masterclasses, offering work experience and mentoring opportunities alongside site visits.

An innovative project-based learning approach has been adopted where students tackle real-world problems in the sector, resulting in increased attendance, higher engagement in their studies and a 100% achievement rate for disadvantaged young people studying Level 1 courses.

Judith Quinn, Vice Principal of Curriculum and Achievement, added: “Our Health and Social Care Academy of Excellence being shortlisted for the Best Employer Engagement Award is a fantastic achievement for all our staff, students and partners.

“The Academy was set up to bring employers and the College together to tackle the issues which have exacerbated health care staff shortages during recent years.

“We already have strong community and employer collaboration, but the Academy was about taking that to the next level. In partnership with health and care employers, such as NHS Trusts and Skills for Care, we work together to build the workforce of the future.

“The Academy also offers employers the opportunity to have a direct impact on the knowledge, skills and behaviours of students by shaping their learning.”

The Educate North Awards 2022 event will be held on Thursday 7 April at the Midland Hotel, hosted by former BBC North West Political Correspondent Jim Hancock.

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