Students gain support of local MPs

Students from Sunderland College led a debate with local MPs to highlight the importance of further education colleges for economic development and social prosperity, as part of the national Love our Colleges campaign.

The debate took place at the college’s City Campus with a panel consisting of Sharon Hodgson, Labour MP for Washington and Sunderland West and Shadow Minister for Public Health; Bridget Phillipson, Labour MP for Houghton and Sunderland South; Julie Elliott, Labour MP for Sunderland Central; and Ellen Thinnesen, Chief Executive of Education Partnership North East (created through the recent merger of Sunderland College and Hartlepool Sixth Form with Northumberland College).

Panel member Sharon Hodgson MP, Member of Parliament for Washington and Sunderland West, said: “It was a privilege to take part in the Love our Colleges debate recently with students, and hear their personal concerns about further education funding.

“At a time when there is a skills gap and a high number of vacancies, the government are continuing to cut funding for further education.

“In order to close this gap, the government must invest in further education so that everyone has the opportunity to learn and develop new skills that they can utilise in employment.”

19-year-old Nathan Jones from Roker is studying Level 3 Extended Diploma IT at Sunderland College, and is a member of the Student Council.

He said: “I was really pleased to be involved in the event today as I am interested in the MPs’ opinion and how they could help to improve the situation for colleges. The Love our Colleges campaign is a great idea, as it is making more people aware of the issue with funding and why something should be done to help.

“Colleges are very important as they help to shape your next steps, provide students with a chance to explore what they want to be in the future and give them the opportunity to go back and study again if they want to. College transformed my life by helping me realise that sixth form wasn’t for me and that there were other routes I could take to achieve success.”