New vision of excellence for Northumberland College

July 19, 2019

Northumberland College has announced an ambitious multi-million-pound investment in its facilities and learning environments just three months after its merger with Sunderland College. Alison Cowie reports

Details of a major investment programme for Northumberland College were unveiled at a special dinner held at its Kirkley Hall campus on June 13.

Attendees included members of the local business and education community who heard about the multi-million-pound investment to be made across the college’s three campuses – Ashington, Kirkley Hall and Berwick – over the next 12 months.

Nigel Harrett, principal of Northumberland College, says: “It’s an exciting time for Northumberland College and a major step forward in delivering brand new facilities and unrivalled learning opportunities for students across the region.”

The college’s Ashington campus will see a refurbishment of its main building and the creation of a new dynamic hub.

“This will include a coffee shop, a new reception and commercial facilities to build safeguarding services for our students,” Nigel explains.

In addition, the campus will feature a new state-of-the-art NextGen digital hub, a new health simulation ward and industry-standard training kitchens.

At the Kirkley Hall campus, the accommodation building will be refurbished to become more of a university-style offering. The Kielder Building will be extended to incorporate improved classrooms and digital and social provision, while a dedicated equine centre, a specialist animal management centre and a leading veterinary nursing centre are also planned at the site.

Meanwhile, in Berwick, work on a new building will create a more centralised college campus.

“At the moment, facilities are very dispersed across the town. Our intention is to bring this together to create a central campus where you’ll be able to access advice and guidance, as well as lots of the learning provision,” says Nigel.

The principal continues: “At its most basic level, the college must ensure that the people of Northumberland have the skills for living. We want to make sure that all of the county’s residents see Northumberland as their number one college and their first choice. To achieve that, we need to offer the right courses for young people, adults and those nearing the end of their careers.”

The college has worked closely with the North East Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) to ensure its learning provision aligns with the region’s Strategic Economic Plan and builds skills in key sectors, such as digital, advanced manufacturing and engineering, construction, health and

life sciences and professional services, while recognition has been given to the unique economy of Northumberland, including the food and visitor and animal and land-based industries.

The college has also incorporated plans to develop facilities for students with special educational needs and those with disabilities across all three sites, ensuring it provides top- quality learning for all.

Nigel reveals that local businesses will play a pivotal role in the college’s transformation. “Our employer engagement team will be

looking to work with businesses from across the county and beyond,” he says. “We want them to help us co-design our curriculums so that our courses provide the skills they want and need.”

Last month’s dinner not only launched Northumberland College’s ambitious plans, it also provided the chance to celebrate its recent merger with Sunderland College, including Hartlepool Sixth Form, which was completed in March 2019.

The three establishments – which will share knowledge, facilities and best practice – will maintain their separate identities while operating under the umbrella brand of Education Partnership North East.

Ellen Thinnesen, chief executive at Education Partnership North East, says: “The investments we are looking to make across our Northumberland campuses will provide huge benefits for our students, both current and future, as well as our staff and the local communities we serve.

“Since the merger we have been busy aligning our focus at each of our campuses in Ashington, Kirkley and Berwick with key economic industries, taking into consideration in each area, the needs of local employers to help shape the improvements to our educational provision. In doing so, we are actively looking to address our region’s skills gaps to ensure the young people and adults we support have access to industry standard resources and high-quality learning

experiences. Our Northumberland-focused investment programme will be transformational and will ensure our students succeed in their chosen careers.”

The celebratory dinner also provided an opportunity to showcase some of the talent studying within Education Partnership North East. Much of the produce served at the dinner was grown on Kirkley Hall’s grounds and cooked and served by the college’s hospitality and catering students, while the spectacular table arrangements were made in the campus’ floristry department.

Sunderland College student Marrianne Hume, who is studying a foundation degree in applied music practice, also wowed with her rendition of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s The Music of the Night and her own composition, which earned her a standing ovation from diners.

The investment plans for Northumberland College students will commence immediately – with much of the work due for completion in March 2020.

Nigel concludes: “Our investment plans are ambitious yet achievable and work will start to be rolled out across the different sites simultaneously over the forthcoming months. Everyone involved with the college, from staff to our commercial partners, is fully behind the plans and we expect some of the new facilities to be complete and available to students from September 2019.

“Students are at the heart of everything we do and the investment plan is part of a long-term, strategic vision for excellence, which will support our transformational growth and development and position the college as a leading organisation locally, regionally and nationally.”

Education Partnership North East

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