A Sunderland headteacher has praised the part his school has played in a North East college’s success in winning two prestigious national education awards.
Monkwearmouth Academy boss Steve Wilkinson spoke of his delight after South Tyneside College was named the country’s top college and the best for overall provision of Further Education.
Judges at the sixth annual TES FE (further education) Awards highlighted the South Shields college’s work with Monkwearmouth Academy as a factor in their decision.
They said the organisations’ collaboration, to create enhanced provision at Monkwearmouth Sixth Form College, was a prime example of the college ‘reaching beyond its walls to help neighbouring institutions’.
Launched last August, the sixth form delivers high-quality A level and vocational provision, as well as sports courses in association with Sunderland football club’s Foundation of Light charity.
It was among initiatives which led judges to hail the college’s commitment to educational attainment, student career advancement and the forging of strong connections with business.
Executive Headteacher Mr Wilkinson said: “I’m thrilled that our partner, South Tyneside College, has won these highly coveted awards.
“It’s very rewarding to know that our partnership has been recognised as being of special importance by the TES judges.
“The college’s modern and visionary outlook to Further Education is an important factor in the outstanding provision Monkwearmouth Sixth Form College is now able to deliver.
“These are exciting times for Monkwearmouth and for the college, and I’m delighted that our partnership has been identified of significance nationally.”
Dr Lindsey Whiterod OBE, Chief Executive of South Tyneside College, said: “Our work with Monkwearmouth is a great example of how two education bodies can join together to benefit students.
“It crosses geographical borders to unite a common aim of delivering first-class education to a new generation of learners.
“The college’s success in these awards is down to staff working as a team, driven to attain the highest possible educational standards and the best student outcomes.
“This is the driving force which has allowed the college to deliver the exceptional and wide learning offer that has been recognised by the TES FE Awards judges.
“They said in their summing up that South Tyneside is an under-celebrated college – I’m delighted that our work has now been given the national recognition it deserves.”
Judges were unanimous in their decision to recognise the college as overall FE provider of the year, citing the breadth of skills on offer locally and nationally as ‘outstanding’.
And they said its ‘outstanding’ employment rate for learners put it ahead of other highly impressive entries in the FE College of the year category.
Hundreds of FE providers submitted entries for the award’s 16 categories, which showcase achievement in the local community, employer engagement, innovation in teaching, leadership and apprenticeships.
A TES FE Awards spokesperson said: “South Tyneside’s commitment to the educational advancement and career attainment of its learners has made it an exceptional centre of learning.
“As well as impressive work within the college, such as delivering clear progression routes into work, it has also had significant impact in the wider community.”
Judges, who included David Hughes, Chief Executive of the National Institute of Adult Continuing Education, and Neil Carberry, the CBI’s Director for People and Skills, described the college as ‘a very deserving winner’.
While praising work done internally, they highlighted how forging connections with businesses and organisations, including Monkwearmouth Academy, had provided an exceptional level of learning experiences for students.
Other initiatives included the creation of South Tyneside College Academy Trust to run Ridgeway Primary Academy in South Shields, a once struggling but now rapidly improving school.
They also cited an example of the college’s successful outreach as being its support for a new £12m health centre within South Tyneside District Hospital, with students helping in its hair salon, cafe and shop.
And its development of short courses that link it more closely to the community by supporting people to learn skills and gain qualifications, was also praised.
Judges saw the international South Shields Marine School and the Marine and Offshore Safety Training Centre, which are operated by the college, as significant drivers of regional economic prosperity.
In reaching their decisions, they also emphasised how after completing their course, more than 90 per cent of learners progress into either employment or further study.
They were also impressed with the college’s 77.8 per cent pass rate at intermediate level, which is higher than the national average of 68.4 per cent.
Andrew Watts, Chair of Governors at South Tyneside College, said: “Providing our students with the high-quality education that enhances their careers and life chances is central to everything the college strives to achieve.
“It is the motivation behind the many outstanding educational and training initiatives we have introduced to make this an exceptional place to study and to learn.
“To win either one of these top awards would have been an amazing achievement, but to win both is truly outstanding, and something to be celebrated.”
More than 600 people attended the black-tie awards event at Grosvenor House Hotel in Park Lane, London, on Friday, which was hosted by comedian Rob Beckett.