Sunderland College recognised for innovation in widening participation

Sunderland College has been announced as a finalist in a prestigious awards programme that celebrate the best and most innovative practice among UK colleges each year.

The college was revealed as a finalist for the new AoC Beacon Award for Widening Participation, which showcases colleges that widen participation for groups often under-represented in further education. The finalists for all 11 categories in the Association of Colleges (AoC) 2021/22 Beacon Awards were announced during the AoC virtual conference.

Earlier this month the college was awarded ‘commended college’ status during the first stage of the award nominations by demonstrating a high level of innovation, impact and sustainability and meeting the AoC Beacon Standard 2021/22.

The college introduced a specialist support system for young people aged 16-25 who provide care for another person or are care experienced. It works in partnership with external organisations such as Together for Children, the Virtual School and the Carers Service to ensure these vulnerable learners are not disadvantaged. The college implemented specific strategies to reduce barriers, provide support from specialist staff and increase educational opportunities.

Vikkie Morton, Vice Principal for Student Services and Registry at Education Partnership North East, of which Sunderland College is a part, said:

“We are extremely proud of our inclusive and supportive learning environment at Sunderland College and are delighted to be recognised as a finalist for the prestigious AoC Beacon Awards this year.

“Since 2017, we have adopted a place-based approach to supporting vulnerable and disadvantaged students, in particular, young parents, young adult carers and those that are care experienced, underpinned by a culture of ensuring every single young person has the opportunity to thrive regardless of their circumstances.

“Using creative approaches, our dedicated staff provide positive and inclusive opportunities that are accessible by all and address barriers that limit potential and achievement. By identifying individual needs and implementing a bespoke support system, we can make a significant difference to the life opportunities of young people within vulnerable groups and support them in transforming their lives.”

Mark White, OBE DL, Chair of AoC’s Charitable Trust said:

“The AoC Beacon Awards showcase exactly why colleges are so important to every community and why people value them. This award recognises the vital role colleges play in providing transformational educational opportunities, especially for those who are disadvantaged. The work of the finalist colleges is an example of how to reduce the barriers to education and help re-engage students into the world of learning.”

The winner in the AoC Beacon Award for Widening Participation category will be revealed early next year.

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