Stockton Riverside College in line for significant Department for Education investment

Stockton Riverside College is set to deliver new T Level courses, in industry-standard facilities, thanks to a recently approved investment from the Department for Education.

Today, the Department for Education has announced the successful recipients of T Level Wave 4 capital funding, in the latest of a long line of further education facility investments, and Stockton Riverside College has been invited to deliver a capital project under the scheme, at its site in Thornaby.

Lesley Graham

The project, which represents a total spend of more than £2.5m, will be funded, in part, by the Department for Education’s T Level Wave 4 Capital Funding grant, which has been allocated to further roll out the new T Level qualifications which offer students classroom-based practical learning alongside an industrial placement of approximately 45 days.

For Stockton Riverside College, which was recently graded by Ofsted as ‘Good’ with ‘Outstanding’ features alongside the rest of the Education Training Collective (Etc.) which includes Bede Sixth Form College, NETA Training Group, Redcar and Cleveland College and The Skills Academy, it will see significant development of facilities across construction, motor vehicle, health and hair and beauty curriculum areas.

Stockton Riverside College principal, Lesley Graham, said: “I am delighted with today’s announcement and look forward to seeing the positive impact that this investment will have on learning spaces, across college.

“For some time now, we have been working with employers to design curriculum and plan the industrial placements, and we are primed to hit the ground running with our first cohort of T Level learners in September – the invitation to deliver these improvements to our learning spaces will ensure that our already outstanding facilities will remain aligned with the latest innovations in industrial workplaces, which will ultimately lead to our learners leaving college with the skills and workplace experiences they need to achieve their career aspirations.”

T Levels were introduced by the Government in the last academic year, with a primary aim of ensuring that teaching, learning and resources match the skills needed for the workplace, delivered through a mixture of classroom and on-the-job training, and are available across a wide-range of sectors including construction, engineering, digital, health and many more.

Working closely with the curriculum team at the college, Levi Buckley, chief operating officer at North Tees and Hartlepool NHS Foundation Trust welcomed today’s news. He said: “The partnership between employers and learning providers has never been as critical as it is right now, especially in the health sector when considering the increases in demand, and advances in practice, that we have seen over the last few years. That is why it is so important that investments like this are made, so that real-life working environments are replicated, as far as possible, which lead to work-ready individuals who can hit the ground running.”

Speaking of the announcement, Matt Vickers, MP for Stockton South, added: “I am thrilled with the news of this approved investment into Stockton Riverside College. The college sits at the heart of my constituency, and has far-reaching positive impact on our local community, so these additional funds will not only improve the fantastic facilities and learning areas of the college – which will be great for so many students long into the future – but they will also ensure that local people are well-positioned to access jobs and secure better futures for themselves.”

Work is expected to commence on site from January 2023, with minimal disruption to current learning schedules.

Education Training Collective rated Ofsted ‘Good’ with ‘Outstanding’ features

High praise from Ofsted is another great result for the colleges, students and staff, that make up the Education Training Collective (Etc.).

In its first full inspection since the merger of Stockton Riverside College and Redcar and Cleveland College, the group, which also includes Bede Sixth Form College, NETA Training and The Skills Academy (Billingham), has been rated ‘Good’ with ‘Outstanding’ features.

Ofsted principals 2022

The report, published today, describes a college group where students are “very proud to study” and they benefit from “a strong culture of positive respect”.

Group principal and chief executive, Phil Cook, said: “As a group our aim, above all else, is to provide high quality local colleges for local people. Gaining outstanding for leadership and management is a fantastic accolade for the group, but also and importantly for those stakeholders we work with; you do not achieve outstanding without excellent partnerships that have a direct impact on our students learning.”

The college group was also rated ‘Outstanding’ for behaviour and attitudes, personal development, and education programmes for young people, and rated ‘Good’ in all other areas. Phil added: “It is reasonable for parents, stakeholders and our communities to assume our provision for young people is now outstanding, as that’s what Ofsted has said and that is brilliant news. For other aspects of our provision such as our apprenticeships and our work with adults and high needs students, Ofsted has commended us and again our communities can be assured that such services are judged as being really really good.”

It also marks a milestone for Redcar and Cleveland College. The college had previously received an inadequate rating before merger, but in the view of Ofsted has been “transformed” and is now considered “the college of first choice” for many young people living in the borough.

Preparing to hand over the reins later this year, after nine years leading the college group, Phil said: “To deliver the service our communities deserve takes hard work and determination, from our staff, leaders, governing body and, of course, our amazing students, not least as we faced the unprecedented challenges of the pandemic.

“That’s why it is fantastic to now see our incredible teams, across the group, and our partners, receive external recognition.”

Inspectors also recognised the support that learners, of all ages and abilities, receive and the enrichment programme that “helps them to develop their wider employability skills, confidence, and resilience.”

There was further praise for the curriculum, which is shaped to meet local economy and skill demands while, working with specialist providers, the group is able to offer a “niche provision” giving people access to local jobs that would normally be out of reach.

The report said: “Students and apprentices benefit from useful and relevant training in their local communities which meets the needs of employers and the priorities of the local enterprise partnership.”

This has resulted in exciting projects in the pipeline, further supporting their local communities, such as the addition of Redcar’s Clean Energy Education Hub, plans to extend facilities at NETA Training and developments at Bede.

Chairman of the Etc. governing board, Mark White OBE DL, said: “As a board of governors we welcome this Ofsted result which is testament to the commitment of all our teams and the work they do to deliver for our communities.”

Retiring in the summer after 27 years on the boards of the colleges that make up the Etc., culminating in his current role as chair, Mark added: “I am extremely proud to have been a part of this incredible group of colleges, of everything it has achieved and everything it will go on to achieve in the future.”

Ofsted gets a virtual insight into life at Etc.

Staff and students at the Education Training Collective (Etc.) have been sharing an insight into college life with a virtual visit from Ofsted.

Phil Cook, Chief Executive and Group Principal

With routine Ofsted inspections suspended due to the pandemic, inspectors have been carrying out interim visits to help learners, parents, employers and government understand how providers are currently meeting the needs of learners and apprentices.

During the two-day Etc. visit, inspectors heard how the group, which incorporates Stockton Riverside College, Redcar and Cleveland College, Bede Sixth Form College, NETA Training and The Skills Academy, has found ways to adapt to the changing circumstances, while ensuring welfare and safety remain a priority.

In a report published today, inspectors said: “Employers and other partner organisations are positive about senior leaders’ response to the challenges of the pandemic. They believe that relationships with college staff are at least as strong now as they were at the start of COVID 19 restrictions. Many partner organisations are optimistic about future collaboration to address local skills gaps.”

Inspectors met with Etc. leaders, managers, staff and learners from across the group in a series of online meetings. They heard how college leaders believed they had been able to “respond successfully to the challenges posed” and that the colleges had been “able to move swiftly into alternative ways of working, including online meetings and remote learning”.

As a result of those moves, student attendance and engagement has been positive, with staff feeding back that learners’ attendance at online sessions during the pandemic did not decline. Staff have gone on to develop their teaching practice to enable them to deliver remote learning sessions and identify when and where face-to-face learning is most essential.

Continuing to build on this new way of working, the report stated: “Teachers have adapted their timetables in response to the different demands of learners’ programmes.”

Chief Executive and Group Principal Phil Cook said: “We were happy to share with Ofsted our experiences of what has undoubtedly been an unprecedented period of challenge for all education providers.

“It is testament to the hard work and dedication of our whole team, including our students, to have inspectors recognise the enormous effort that has gone into ensuring learning has been disrupted as little as possible across the Etc. We have been amazed by the resilience and adaptability shown by all.”

Chairman of the Etc. Governing Board Mark White said: “The response of our leaders, staff and learners to the challenges COVID 19 has posed has been phenomenal. We are proud to see that the Ofsted report released today reflects this.”

Colleges explore innovative new ways to teach our students

Face-to-face learning may have temporarily been put on hold at colleges across the UK but that doesn’t mean that teaching has stopped.

Across Etc. we have been exploring innovative new ways to reach our students. And for those more practical subjects that involves being a bit more unconventional with our thinking.

Hair and Media Makeup student Karen and her family
Hair and Media Makeup student Karen and her family

“It’s meant a lot of changes,” said Stockton Riverside College’s musical theatre lecturer and creative director, Sara Durkin. “But we are already finding that our students are rising to the challenge.”

This week would have seen casting auditions at the college for their big summer show, Legally Blonde. But instead of letting all that preparation go to waste, students have been creating “self tape” auditions and sending them in remotely.

Sara said: “This is increasingly what would happen in industry and so it makes sense for our students to develop these skills.”

What’s more, with theatres having closed their doors, students have been able to make the most of specialist masterclasses posted online by some of the West End’s top performers.

Kelly Coupland
Kelly Coupland

Capturing evidence of their work through videos and pictures is rapidly becoming the norm for students. At Redcar and Cleveland College, programme area lead for sport, public services and the service industries, Kelly Coupland, said the work they are seeing is outstanding.

She said: “Both students and staff are being forced to think outside of the box and they aren’t letting us down.”

For subjects like beauty and hairdressing the answers to remote learning aren’t always obvious, particularly taking into account social distancing, but Kelly said it seems immediate family are rapidly becoming the focus of these learners’ attention.

Dormanstown mum-of-three and hair and media makeup student Karen, 36, has been practising the likes of body art and tanning on her daughters, while husband Lee got to model some makeup techniques and contouring.

She said: “The tutors at the College have been amazing, encouraging us to do what we can. At the moment it is about keeping our techniques fresh. In our house my college work has become more of an activity for all the family. My daughters are asking, what do we need to do today? And they are enjoying being involved.”

Sam Beel

For Redcar’s course leader for digital and IT, Sam Beel, it’s proven a time for her students to flex their technological know-how. Delivering and sharing presentations online, she said some learners are actually showing more confidence than ever.

She said: “Because they are at home in their own surroundings it’s like they are that bit more comfortable.”

As a teacher and staff governor, she said, it has been heartening to see the students so openly engage. She added: “It has really shown that they want to learn.”

That’s certainly the case for film production students at Stockton Riverside College who should have been out on location, shooting scenes for their final projects this week.

Student Conrad, 18, said: “It does feel quite surreal working from home but you have to keep in the mind-set that you are still in college and you’ve still got work to do.”

While shooting has been put on hold, he said there are new assignments and, of course, a whole new set of challenges to overcome.

Lecturer Kelly Fairhurst said: “All former plans have had to be set aside but that doesn’t mean that learning stops.”

In fact, lessons for students, and teachers alike, now automatically incorporate key skills such as adapting to change, overcoming challenges and finding a new approach.

Thankfully Kelly said: “We are all in it together and that makes the difference.”

Offering students a fresh spark of inspiration

With his sights set on a career as a welder, Aaron knows where he is headed.

Determined to develop the core skills he needs, including English and maths, he said: “You have to realise when you need to shape up.”

He is one of 14 pupils currently accessing Northfield School & Sports College’s inclusion base. Part of his motivation has come from a new alternate training programme being delivered in partnership with the Education Training Collective (Etc.).

The scheme offers the students who, for a whole host of reasons, no longer follow the school’s mainstream curriculum, the chance to try their hand at different vocational skills in a college or training environment.

For Aaron and his classmates that has included the choice of having a go, one day a week, at some basic engineering skills at Stockton’s NETA Training or hair and beauty sessions at The Skills Academy.

It was during the NETA workshops that the 15-year-old first tried welding. He said: “It seemed okay and not too stressful.” And as it turns out, he was pretty good at it too.

“This is why we created the programme,” said Etc.’s 14 to 16 Manager, Tracey Laycock. “It’s about offering our skills, expertise and facilities to help motivate and re-engage these young people.”

The bespoke programme at Northfield, builds on the school’s existing provision which in itself is helping to reduce the need for permanent exclusions.

Deputy Head Teacher, Gary Ankers, said: “We have had an inclusion base here for many years which is pretty rare in a secondary school. While it is not all about those with challenging behaviour, there are students accessing the provision who would have otherwise been at risk of permanent exclusion.”

He explained by removing the pressure of working to a full mainstream curriculum, the students can focus on developing core skills such as English, maths, IT and science. The addition of the bespoke Etc. programme has opened up further vocational sessions in subjects they wouldn’t typically be able to access.

The college group also provides a year-long personal development programme through The Prince’s Trust, delivered one day a week at The Skills Academy.

Northfield student Jay, 15, recognises the difference it could make to his future. With ambitions to one day become an architect, he said: “Things like NETA and The Prince’s Trust are stepping stones for us. At NETA we get to learn practical skills and then the Prince’s Trust is about working in a team, communicating and helping you develop as a person.”

Future pipefitter Bailey, 15, said: “It gives you a starting point, trying something different.” While 14-year-old Chay added: “It’s getting us ready for a working environment.”

Aiming to equip all of their students with the best skill set to maximise their future life chances, Northfield’s Deputy Head Teacher Gary said: “While GCSE grades are very important, they will never be the be all and the end all for all students and this programme is designed to reflect that. There are other skills our students need to develop, including ‘softer’ skills such as resilience and teamwork, and that is what we are doing here.”

For more details about Etc.’s bespoke alternative 14 to 16 provision which can be delivered in schools email:

NHS workers shine a spotlight on apprenticeship success

Celebrations got underway at Stockton Riverside College where the spotlight has fallen on apprentices from North Tees and Hartlepool NHS Foundation Trust.

The team picked up accolades to mark the culmination of their studies; honing their skills in everything from medical administration to business management.

And, if you thought apprenticeships were just for school leavers, then you might want to think again.

Shining the spotlight on their staff’s achievements, North Tees and Hartlepool NHS Foundation Trust’s Deputy Chief People Officer, Gary Wright, explained they recognise the value apprenticeships can offer, not just for new starters but also existing employees looking to upskill.

NHS workers shine a spotlight on apprenticeship success

With a massive 160 apprentices currently at the Trust, he said: “Ultimately we want to develop our workforce of the future and help maximise people’s potential.

“By offering the opportunity for continuous professional development it enables us to make sure we have got the right people, with the right skills in the right roles. It also puts them in a good position for future development. This is an investment in them and their future.”

Working with a number of delivery partners, including Stockton Riverside College, the Trust have staff who can develop in every area from health and social care to electricians and joiners. And for some, Gary said, this might even be their first chance to pick up qualifications since leaving school.

For those who have worked there for many years, it can also be an opportunity to brush up on those all-important maths and English qualifications.

That was the case for award winner Debbie. The Stockton mum has worked in the Trust for 19 years, spending the last five as a ward clerk in the emergency assessment unit.

Given the opportunity to complete an apprenticeship in medical administration, she said: “I am always up for learning more so I put my name forward.”

She admits that balancing study around work, which includes lots of night shifts, was a bit of a juggling act, but it was well worth it.

“It was hard,” she said. “I left school 30 years ago and you don’t realise how hard things are. I also studied English, maths and IT. I was never very good at maths at school but it gets your brain working.”

Receiving a Special Recognition Award at the glittering ceremony at the college, she said: “I never in a million years expected to get anything like this. It’s nice that people appreciate your hard work.”

Jill was also among those recognised with a North Tees and Hartlepool NHS Foundation Trust’s Learner of the Year Award. Working in the breast screening unit at the University Hospital of North Tees, she said she was a little hesitant to embark on a Level 2 Medical Administration Apprenticeship but she gave it a go and never looked back.

“It has been amazing,” said the Stockton mum-of-two. “I have loved every minute of it and didn’t realise how much I would enjoy the learning experience.”

Like Debbie, she said: “It was a bit of a juggling act, but you put your mind to it and you do it.” Jill is now moving on to her level 3 qualification.

For Stockton Riverside College assessor Jamie Gilbey, seeing the apprentices achieve was a proud moment.

A former apprentice himself, he understands exactly how the learners are feeling. In fact, it is that experience that helps him in his role.

A keen advocate of apprenticeships; his is a great example of just what can be achieved.

“Apprenticeships can be a foot in the door,” he said. “But people often underestimate just what it can lead to.” He’s happy to share his experience to help inspire others.

Starting at the college as an apprentice administrator, Jamie admitted at 21 he had no idea where it would lead. But having previously found that university wasn’t for him, and having worked a series of part-time jobs, he was ready for a new start.

He said: “Apprenticeships seemed on the rise and this position came up at the college so I thought I would give it a go.”

He never imagined he would still be with the college 10 years later, having progressed through the ranks to become an officer in the admissions team and then an admissions advisor.

Jamie’s enthusiasm, commitment and ability to inspire others, had clearly caught someone’s eye as it was suggested he study his assessors’ qualifications alongside the day job.

Now qualified and working with apprentices across the Tees Valley, as an assessor he helps other apprentices navigate their own path to success.

Working with the likes of the apprentices from the North Tees and Hartlepool NHS Foundation Trust, he gets to see the value every day. He said, there’s no better feeling than sharing their success.

At the award ceremony he too was recognised with an Outstanding Contribution to the Student Experience Award.

Want to know more about the apprenticeship opportunities with Stockton Riverside College?

Visit: or call 01642 865566

Students to create knife crime awareness sculpture from knives handed in to police

Over 600 knives surrendered to Cleveland Police during a recent campaign, will now be used by our students to build a sculpture aimed at raising awareness of the dangers of knife crime.

As part of their curriculum, art students are working on a number of innovative designs, one of which will be brought to life by budding engineers from NETA Training.

Students to create knife crime awareness sculpture from knives handed in to police

The idea for the sculpture follows on from the Knife Angel being erected in Middlesbrough’s Centre Square in August. The 27ft sculpture, made from over 10,000 discarded knives and confiscated weapons from police forces around the country, stands as a tragic reminder of the devastation caused by knife crime.

Stockton Riverside College’s Course Leader for Art and Design, Liz Dixon, said: “The Knife Angel is such a fantastic example of how art can be used to deliver a powerful message. Our students are looking forward to now testing their own creative skills to come up with a unique design that will help further spread the word both to fellow students and the wider community.”

Superintendent Tariq Ali, Cleveland Police lead on knife crime, said: “In Cleveland, knife crime has always been taken very seriously and we always try to get our messages across to younger people in a number of ways in order to educate them about the dangers and potential consequences of carrying knives.

“This initiative is an additional way that we can reach out to young people and educate them, including those involved in designing and building the sculpture and anyone who may see the finished product.”

Police and Crime Commissioner for Cleveland, Barry Coppinger, said: “The visit of the Knife Angel to Middlesbrough was a massive coup for Cleveland and it was visited by thousands of people. This innovative idea by students to create a smaller sculpture forms part of our plan to help rid communities of knife crime.

“It is hoped that by creating something poignant like this, it will help us to spread the message about the dangers of knife crime further. By educating young people and removing knives off the streets of Cleveland, we are another step closer to stamping out knife crime.”

With NETA students tasked with ultimately turning the arts students’ final design into a sculpture, Head of Department for Engineering, David Laycock, said: “It is quite shocking to hear that until recently those 600 plus knives were on the streets of Teesside.

“It is so important for people to be aware that knife crime is not just an issue in London and the big cities but it exists right here on our doorsteps.

“Through projects like this, we hope to play a small part in helping raise awareness of the dangers of knife crime and its devastating consequences, not just for those directly affected but for families, friends and the whole community.”