Northumberland College has celebrated the completion of its inspirational new build learning environment for students with Special Educational Needs and Disabilities.

The college hosted a special event to officially open its bespoke SEND Centre at Kirkley Hall Campus which has been created as part of a major capital investment programme supported by the Department for Education.

Providing a safe space with outstanding resources and facilities, the new centre is also complemented by an ambitious curriculum, affording students the opportunity to study on various ‘pathways to adulthood.’

Senior leaders from the Education and Skills Funding Agency, Northumberland County Council, Prosper Learning Trust, and Governors, gathered with staff and students to celebrate the inspirational new centre. VIPs also had the opportunity to tour the college’s wider land-based campus, and to see first-hand the impact of a multi-million-pound investment programme into veterinary science, animal, and equine facilities.

To support the event’s success, Northumberland College invited students from Sunderland College’s centre for special education needs and disability who were thrilled to experience a day out at Kirkley Hall Campus and join in the heart-warming celebrations.

Together students from both colleges delighted guests with a performance of ‘This is Me’ by the student Makaton choir, supported hospitality, and gave horticulture demonstrations which included handmade floral gifts for dignitaries to take home.

Ellen Thinnesen, Chief Executive of Education Partnership Northeast, and Nigel Harrett, Principal of Northumberland College gave an overview of the centre and the benefits it will bring young people and adults across the region.

Guests took a tour through the new SEND centre which spans two floors and 800 square metres including a sensory room, a modern and innovative Independence Hub to help students develop key life skills, and the Employability Hub which supports their progression to the next stage of education or work.

The centre is now home to Northumberland College’s Foundation Learning programmes focusing on the core topics for living an independent life including health and safety, travel training, healthy living, money management, employability skills, teamwork, communication, literacy, and numeracy.

Proud of its inclusivity, the college ensures students with SEND are part of the wider campus community, where they spend some of their time in the new centre and the remainder in land and animal working environments, which offers the opportunity for young people to specialise in vocational areas such as Horticulture, Professional Cookery, Animal Care and more.

During a tour of the campus, guests were able to view these learning methods first-hand, as students took part in activities at Northumberland College’s on-site Animal and Zoological training facilities and a newly built Equine Centre of Excellence.

Ellen Thinnesen said: “This very special day for our students who were very excited to show our VIPs their skills and talents. The new centre is a culmination of several years of visioning and investment into Northumberland’s young people with Special Education Needs and Disability.

“I am incredibly grateful to the Department for Education, the Education and Skills Funding Agency, Northumberland County Council, Lloyds, and Barclays banks for supporting our vision. In doing so, we have been able to shape a coherent regional educational strategy for SEND and with this, the finance and funding to invest in our most vulnerable students.

“Today is without doubt a moment to remember because together we have created a facility that will serve the county’s students with SEND for years to come.”

Karen Sherry, Deputy Director (North) from the Education and Skills Funding Agency, added: “I feel the launch of the new facilities for SEND students at Kirkley Hall earlier today was a great success. It is excellent to see such high-quality learning environments in place which will, I am sure, alongside high-quality teaching, learning and assessment, have such a positive impact on learners lives and their futures.

“The incredible performance from students on the day was amazing to see and I felt privileged to be part of it. It brought a tear to my eye.”

Jeff Hope, Chair of Northumberland College Local Boards and Head of Manufacturing AkzoNobel, said: “The SEND Centre opening at Kirkley Hall brings transformational change that impacts many people’s lives, and their families lives, in such a positive way. The role that the teams played organising the projects and the improvements has given an exciting start to the wonderful facility that is part of the wider Northumberland College community.

“It was fantastic to see the students, their creations, and the way that everyone played their part in giving the event a personal touch that showcases exactly what makes Kirkley Hall exceptional. I look forward to seeing the future successes of the centre and the positive impact on so many students’ lives.”

Part of a multi-million-pound regeneration project managed by real estate consultants Hollis, the SEND Centre was recently shortlisted in the Value category at the 2021 Constructing Excellence North East (CENE) Awards, which is presented to the project which demonstrates value of its facilities and the positive financial, social, or environmental outcomes for owners and users.

Later in the year Northumberland College will be hosting an Industry Appreciation evening to thank construction company Engie, Malcolm Hollis, Seymour Architecture and the many North East contractors that have played a key role in the college’s journey to excellence.

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)

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