WEARSIDE MATTERS: Sunderland College a hotbed for academic excellence

Jackie Moreland, the first director of Sunderland Sixth Form.
Jackie Moreland, the first director of Sunderland Sixth Form.
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A year of rapid progress at Sunderland College is set to continue with the creation of an exciting new hotbed for academic excellence.

With the opening of a state of the art £29m campus, arrival of new principal Ellen Thinnesen, and now the launch of the new Sunderland Sixth Form, 2016 has been a year of incredible evolution for Sunderland College.

This latest advance at the college, will see it deliver all A-level qualifications at Bede Campus, pulling together years of experience, knowledge and expertise into one outstanding sixth form centre.

This vibrant and high-performing hub of academic achievement will see all A-level provision moved to the college’s Bede Campus by September 2017. And the college has appointed an A-level specialist and leader, with a proven track record of delivery.

Step forward Jackie Moreland, the first director of Sunderland Sixth Form – a title the former history teacher is quickly getting used to.

“It is a really exciting opportunity,” she smiles. “Sunderland Sixth Form is more than re-branding our provision, we’re creating an exciting new sixth form centre where we and our students work together to strive for excellence in everything we do and everything we deliver.

“Bringing all of our A-Level courses together at Bede Campus helps us create this amazing facility that is bursting with knowledge and enthusiasm. We have an incredible roster of A-level specialists who have years, often decades, of experience and skill at teaching A-level subjects successfully.

“Sunderland College has worked hard to earn a fantastic reputation for A-level results, and we want to build on that. However, that is not just about our constantly striving for the last 1% so we have 100% pass rates – it is also about making sure our pastoral support, student guidance, teaching standards, and quality of learning environment are all of the highest possible standard … and they are.

“We are very proud of our 99%, and we are about creating academic excellence, but I believe strongly that it is possible to do that within our inclusive and diverse environment.

“There are stories behind the results, perhaps young people who had tough years, fell ill or overcame personal obstacles.

“I know that all students who come to Sunderland Sixth Form benefit from a great support network as part of the wider college, whilst being encouraged to have high aspirations for themselves and their futures.”

A York University graduate, Jackie has taught history across the region for more than 20 years and is well connected to regional universities.

Arriving at Sunderland Sixth Form from St Robert of Newminster School, Washington, Jackie has also taught at St Joseph’s Catholic Academy in Hebburn and had early teaching stints in Newton Aycliffe and Berwick.

“I haven’t had time to miss teaching yet,” she said. “However, I’m sure I will because it is something I wanted to do since I was four-years-old.

“For now, my focus is very much on establishing Sunderland Sixth Form’s academic credentials and building on the ‘Good’ award received by Ofsted earlier in the year.”

Having held pastoral positions, a post as gifted and talented co-ordinator, and assistant head titles, Jackie has enjoyed and excelled in roles that have mixed student interaction with academic delivery.

She added: “Sometimes colleges across the country have been viewed as something of an academic “poor relation”, for want of a better term. That could not be further from the truth – at Sunderland Sixth Form, our tutors are all A-level specialists, the students are provided with greater freedoms and therefore empowered to become more independent.

“Add to that an environment where the arts mix with the academics which mixes with the vocational … and we have a unique atmosphere that is inspiring and hopefully helps stimulate young people who are preparing themselves for further study or employment.”

Sunderland Sixth Form will this year welcome 500 students through its doors at Bede Campus, and Jackie is determined that each will be provided with the best opportunity, support and environment to fulfil their potential and ambition.

“We will get young people who, like me, know exactly what it is they want to do with their life, and we will sit them down and work out a personalised pathway for them to achieve their dreams.

“We will get other young people who know they want to study a specific subject or area and we will work with them to figure out a potential path that will allow them to secure a career in that field.

“And there will be others who don’t have a clear idea, but appreciate the need for a good education. We will provide it for them and help guide them and deliver options throughout the time they remain at Sunderland Sixth Form. That is what makes this job so varied and interesting and, ultimately, so fulfilling.”

New branding is also being launched for Sunderland Sixth Form, which will be officially opened later in the year.

Sunderland College principal and chief executive, Ellen Thinnesen, sees the creation of the new further education provider as the next logical step in the evolution of Sunderland College.

She said: “Appointing someone with an outstanding record for standards and results, and the ability to engage with teaching staff and students alike, and also build on the college’s excellent record for A-level delivery in recent years has been a significant priority.”

Jackie is a fantastic appointment and brings so much leadership and A-level experience, enthusiasm and positivity to this newly created position.

“She has already had a positive impact and I can only see that continuing as we enter this exciting new stage for further education under the Sunderland College umbrella.

“While Sunderland Sixth Form will deliver our A-level courses, it is still very much part of Sunderland College and we will grow our educational offer together in the coming years.”