North East MP Sharon Hodgson has gone back to the classroom, to learn about the development of one of the region’s largest colleges.
The Washington MP was invited to Sunderland College to find out more about the soon-to-be-opened City Centre Campus, and to meet students who are currently on the college’s Foundation Learning programme at its recently-extended Bede Campus.
The visit follows the appointment of Ellen Thinnesen, who joined the college in January, replacing Anne Isherwood, who had been at the helm for four years. It is set to be a year of change for the college, with its Hylton Campus closing, and its staff and students moving to the £29million campus.
Sharon Hodgson MP said: “Sunderland College is a huge asset to the city and the wider North East region, and it is great to find out more about the work going into enhancing its offer, with a brand new campus that will deliver a state of the art learning environment right at the heart of our city, and with fantastic connectivity by road, rail and Metro that will draw people from outside the city.
“This is set to be a huge boost for not only young people from Sunderland, but from beyond the boundaries of the city. And not only that, but it will transform the city centre, bringing as many as 2,000 young people – with cash to spend – to the area. Its significance cannot be underestimated.”
Mrs Hodgson spent time with learners during her visit, and was brought up to speed with the college’s latest developments, including its Bede Campus extension completed in 2014
Mrs Hodgson said: “It’s clear that Sunderland College is delivering an impressive standard of education to its students and that can only be improved by having a base that is absolutely fit for purpose and up to date. Bede Campus has been transformed with investment of almost £20million, and with the City Campus following hot on its heels, I have no doubt we will be looking at a college with a very bright future.”
As well as the college, Mrs Hodgson was keen to speak to principal Ellen Thinnesen about the Government’s planned Area Reviews, which will see colleges and sixth forms fall under the spotlight, as plans are made to streamline the sector.
Ellen Thinnesen said the visit provided a great opportunity to talk about the college, and the wider context in which it is operating.
She said: “The political landscape is changing very quickly and we are seeing major change in the further education sector that we are having to respond to at pace. That is exactly what we are doing, while delivering a consistently high standard of education for our young people. And we want to build on this, something that will be helped by having the best facilities.
“The City Campus is set to transform our offer, and we are already seeing it act as a magnet, drawing students from further afield. We have a strong offer and we hope to maximise this to ensure that Sunderland College is the first choice of students across the city and in neighbouring areas of the North East.”