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Ofsted say that Sunderland College is Good

Sunderland College staff have been highly praised as ‘enthusiastic, knowledgeable and passionate’ following a full inspection visit by Ofsted.

The College, was officially rated as ‘Good’ with many strong features and the inspectors commended staff for sharing ‘their love of, and enthusiasm for, their subjects to lead lively and interesting sessions’.

Ellen Thinnesen, Principal at Sunderland College said: “We are very pleased with our inspection result, the recognition of our high standards and the role we play in raising aspirations for young people across the region.

“I’m delighted that our teaching and learning support staff have been recognised for their passion and commitment to ensuring our learners achieve their potential. Since arriving at the College in January, I’ve been highly impressed by all of our staff and to have this endorsed by Ofsted is a true testament to all of their hard work. We are now determined to go from strength to strength.”

Ellen added: “This Ofsted report is great news not only for the College and our staff and learners but also for the city, the wider region and the Further Education sector. Our approach to partnership working and the important role we take in meeting the needs of the local and regional economy was positively highlighted within the report.”

Ofsted identified that ‘close collaboration with key partners within the region results in a coherent and continuously updated curriculum aligned closely to regional and national priorities’.

Ofsted go on to say that ‘managers work closely with the local council, local health trusts, local universities and employers to design programmes to address specific skills gaps identified by the local enterprise partnership such as in advanced manufacturing, health and social care and in digital industries.’

An example of this is the work that the college undertakes in the digital and IT sector. As an integral partner of Sunderland Software City, the college works in partnership with them to address the skills agenda within the industry.

The College is one of only four colleges in the UK and the only provider in the region to teach the newly-created NextGen Level 3 Extended Diploma in Games, Animation and VFX Skills. The course has been designed by high-profile companies including Sony, Microsoft, Ubisoft Reflections, Double Negative and Framestore, and provides learners with the skills and experience they need to launch a career in the entertainment industries.

Within the report, Ofsted praised the College for setting high expectations and targets for learners and that through staff encouragement, learners ‘work diligently to achieve those targets so that they can go on to fulfil their emerging ambitions for work or higher education.’

Inspectors recognised that ‘due to the good quality teaching, learning and assessment and high levels of support and guidance, the great majority of learners achieve their qualifications and progress to higher education or sustainable employment.’ The report also recognised that ‘almost all apprentices retain their employment at the end of their qualification.’

In addition, it was acknowledged that ‘a higher proportion of learners on study programmes achieve their qualifications than those at similar providers’.

Ellen commented: “Our role is to equip learners with the qualifications and work readiness skills required to progress onto their next steps, be that higher education or employment. Ofsted have recognised that we are most certainly fulfilling this role and enabling our learners to successfully move on to the next stage in their lives.”

The College was robustly inspected on safeguarding by Ofsted and this was found to be effective across all four of the College campuses.

Both the College’s provision for learners with high needs and adult learning programmes were graded as ‘Good’ with the report recognising that ‘learners with high needs develop the skills to enable them to be more independent.’

The inspection team also recognised that the College has ‘a highly visible leadership team’ and that ‘the recently appointed principal has developed an ambitious strategic plan that builds effectively on the work of her predecessors’. In addition the range of skills, experience and expertise of the Board of Governors were praised within the report.

Summary of key findings:

  • College leaders promote a culture of high expectations that enables the great majority of learners to achieve their qualifications and pursue their career aspirations
  • Highly effective collaboration with key partners develops a curriculum that addresses local economic priorities and contributes towards the regeneration of the city centre
  • The large majority of younger learners on level 3 vocational programmes make very good progress compared with their starting points
  • Learners develop good employability skills through high quality work placements
  • Enthusiastic, knowledgeable and passionate teachers lead lively and interesting sessions that learners enjoy and enable them to show what they know and can do
  • Through a strong focus on the application of English, maths and information communication and technology skills, learners are able to apply these skills to strengthen their subject knowledge
  • Learners develop a good understanding of healthy lifestyles, how to stay safe and respect for other cultures through an effective tutorial model


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