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MP praises college’s innovative response to COVID-19 during virtual visit

The Minister for Apprenticeships and Skills has paid a virtual visit to one of the largest colleges in the North East and praised its innovative response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

MP Gillian Keegan was invited to remotely visit Sunderland College to meet staff and students and to see first-hand how the college has moved their learning online and implemented strategies to ensure students are supported during this challenging time.

She said: “It was wonderful to virtually meet so many students and staff and hear first-hand the fantastic job Sunderland College has done to successfully move learning online. I was really impressed by the innovative steps taken by staff to support learners during this difficult period.

“Such high levels of engagement, 93% for 16-18 year olds and 100% for all adult and higher education classroom-based provision, are a real testament to the hard work and commitment of the college staff to make sure their students have the skills and support they need to succeed.”

Welcomed by chief executive of Education Partnership North East, Ellen Thinnesen, the minister’s visit began with an introduction to Rob Lawson, Chair of Governors, and other key staff and students at the college.

She was then given a video demonstration of the vision and strategic plan for Education Partnership North East, the college group which also includes Hartlepool Sixth Form and Northumberland College.

With the help of three of his students – Jonah Kirtley, Keith Wilkinson and James Binns –  Minister Keegan observed how students have been engaged in online technical learning and was able to view industry standard learning resources and the production of technical work produced by each of the students.

To conclude the virtual visit, the Minister spoke to the principal of Northumberland College, Nigel Harrett, who detailed how the college had proactively responded to the challenges of COVID-19 and Ellen Thinnesen discussed the future opportunities for the education sector.

Ellen said: “We were delighted to be able to share our successful switch to virtual learning with 93% of 16-18-year olds positively engaging and planning to continue their study with us next year.

“I was also pleased to be able to share our plans for prestigious T-Level delivery and how the college is preparing for new and innovative approaches to technical skills delivery through a number of enabling new technologies.

“I discussed with Minister Keegan, that the key to our transformation has been driven through the college’s strong culture and the dedication and commitment of our workforce in ensuring our students, their success and progression remain our primary focus.”