Leaders and governors at a regional college group are delighted after Ofsted inspectors praised their ‘significant progress’ and thanked them for the difference they have made to the lives of students.

Ofsted inspectors visited City of Sunderland College, Northumberland College and Hartlepool Sixth Form, part of Education Partnership North East, in December 2021. The inspectors evaluated the progress that leaders and managers have made since completing two mergers and the creation of a regional college group. An approach Ofsted takes with all merged colleges.

During the visit, Ofsted met with governors, college leaders, staff, students, parents, employers and community partners and judged all areas as making ‘significant progress’, the highest performance judgment available. Highlights of the Ofsted report include:

“Leaders have successfully implemented processes for evaluating the quality of education and securing improvements across all centres. As a result, the quality of education has improved significantly, particularly at Northumberland College.”

“Leaders and managers work very closely with strategic partners, including the local enterprise partnership, the NHS, local authorities and advisory boards, to design a curriculum that meets the North East’s regional and local requirements well.”

“Teachers plan the curriculum skillfully so that students can build new knowledge and skills” and leading on from this, “students become more fluent in the tasks they need to complete in order to progress on their course and to prepare for future employment.”

“Governors provide helpful guidance to managers in curriculum planning that successfully meets regional and local employment needs and the needs of students, including those with high needs. Governors have a wealth of experience and expertise in industry and in specialised areas including teaching and special educational needs. Leaders have recruited governors from local industry sectors with expert knowledge in housing, engineering, construction and healthcare.”

Education Partnership North East is a multi-award-winning regional college group serving diverse urban and rural communities from the Scottish Borders to the Tees Valley. CEO, Ellen Thinnesen, said:

“We were delighted to welcome inspectors from Ofsted and demonstrate the transformational journey we have been on and the positive impact our brilliant staff have made. We knew that we have an amazing story to tell, and we were proud to have the opportunity to demonstrate our performance.”

“It is fantastic recognition for the combined effort and dedication of everyone across the college group to ensure we are achieving our vision of excellence. Our staff continually go above and beyond for their students, and I am incredibly grateful for their willingness and dedication. From curriculum staff, to support function staff and my senior leadership team, every person has played a part in our success, and I know they are extremely proud.”

Recognising the impact that the post-merger board of governors has made, Ellen added:

“The governing body across Education Partnership North East has been instrumental in successfully delivering our vision of excellence. Their vast knowledge and expertise across priority sectors will ensure all of our colleges, and thus Education Partnership North East, is consistently positioned as leading provider of further and higher education into the future.”

In 2019 the leadership team of the merged colleges, and the board of governors, introduced a new strategic vision which created a dynamic phase of growth and transformation for the college. The college implemented a robust new curriculum planning process, informed by employers and regional and local priorities, to ensure courses were career-focused, aligned to key economic sectors, supported future growth and addressed regional skills gaps.

An extensive, multi-million-pound re-development programme has also provided outstanding new facilities and investments to support the development of higher-level technical skills and transformed college campuses into state-of-the-art, industry-focused centres for school leavers and adults.

Ofsted ratings:

Since Sunderland College’s mergers with Northumberland College and Hartlepool Sixth Form College, how well have governors, leaders and managers ensured that they secure and sustain improvements to the quality of education across all centres? – Significant progress

How successful have leaders’ actions been since mergers in ensuring that the curriculum of the merged college meets the needs of students, employers and stakeholders, as well as being aligned to local and regional employment and skills priorities? – Significant progress

How successful have leaders and managers been in ensuring that students [specifically] at Northumberland College who have high needs are set challenging work on vocational courses to enable them to develop the skills that they need to prepare for adult life? – Significant progress

What progress have leaders and managers made in ensuring that students [specifically] at Northumberland College on education programmes for young people and apprenticeships attend their lessons often enough in English and mathematics and consequently make progress in these subjects? – Significant progress

Read the full report: https://reports.ofsted.gov.uk/provider/31/131347?utm_source&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=report

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