South Tyneside College's reputation as a giant in the marine sector is clear. Every year, the college trains hundreds of learners who want to join the marine industries, from cadet all the way through to master mariner. Its marine school, in particular, has become the envy of many colleges, and due to its international reputation the college hosts students from 100 countries on its courses.
But in February, the college achieved its biggest triumph yet: claiming the titles for college and overall FE provider of the year at the Tes FE Awards 2017.
“Winning a Tes FE award, or even being shortlisted, is a fantastic opportunity to raise our profile and celebrate our hard work and achievements,” says Lindsey Whiterod, chief executive of South Tyneside College. “Being recognised by Tes is a tribute to each individual staff member, and it also showcases the rich talent working to promote good education within the college. The awards have brought immense recognition at national level, and has put us firmly on the education map. It is a landmark in the life of any college.”
So what sets the college apart from other institutions? For Alison Maynard, principal of South Tyneside’s Professional and Vocational College, it is its links with the local community and regional employers – relationships that were also highlighted by the Tes FE Awards judges.
“We ask regional employers what they really want, and they shape the curriculum,” Maynard explains. “It is not about what we want to deliver. It is what they need. We take our business out as much as we can. Initially we spent a lot of time going out to engage the community, but now they come to us.”
'Seeing the bigger picture'
“We really are world class,” says Whiterod. “Any ship you get on, there will be a captain or a first officer who has been trained at South Tyneside.”
When Tes visited the college in June, it was clear that management and staff all bought into the college's success (“FE college of the year” T-shirts were spotted around the campus, for instance). Maynard says the staff are completely driven by getting their learners ready for industry, and that "they see the bigger picture.”
For Whiterod, it is essential that the college's diverse offering for the community it serves now remains as strong as possible. “Despite the many strands, we are one college," she says.
The 2018 Tes FE Awards opens for entries on Friday 15 September. Full details will be published on the awards website.