A ground-breaking review of Further Education (FE) and Sixth Form Colleges undertaken as part of a nationwide government programme of Area Reviews has made a series of recommendations which will transform the opportunities available to young people and adults whether they are seeking to get their first job or improve their career prospects in Tees Valley.
The review considered the best way of shaping further education provision in Tees Valley by building on the strengths of the individual colleges to ensure they are sustainable and closely aligned to the skills needs of employers in the area.
The Tees Valley Area Review, which was one of the first in the country, covered the five local authority areas of Darlington, Hartlepool, Middlesbrough, Redcar & Cleveland and Stockton, which aligns with the area served by Tees Valley Unlimited (TVU) and the Tees Valley Combined Authority (TVCA).
Six colleges were involved in the review – Cleveland College of Art and Design, Darlington, Hartlepool, Middlesbrough, Redcar & Cleveland and Stockton Riverside – and four Sixth Form Colleges: Hartlepool Sixth Form College, Prior Pursglove College, Queen Elizabeth Sixth Form College (Darlington) and Stockton Sixth Form College.
Representatives from each of the colleges, the local authorities, TVU and TVCA formed a steering group, which was co-chaired by Gill Alexander, Hartlepool Council chief executive and Sir David Collins, the Government’s FE Commissioner.
A number of recommendations have now been agreed by the Steering Group which will go forward to be the subject of further work, detailed appraisal and public consultation in accordance with the legal requirements for college mergers
The proposals include mergers between Middlesbrough and Redcar & Cleveland College; Darlington and Stockton Riverside College and Hartlepool College and Hartlepool Sixth Form College.
Together these three mergers will improve the delivery of specialised qualifications, increase apprenticeship opportunities and align courses on offer with the skills requirements of employers. They will also mean that high-quality and viable further education opportunities for young people and adults remain available in each town and that the financial stability of colleges is strengthened.
In addition it has been agreed by the review Steering Group that:
- Cleveland College of Art and Design will remain as an independent institution, seeking to build further on their art and design specialism
- The recently merged Prior Pursglove and Stockton Sixth Form College will pursue academy status and establish or join a multi-academy trust with local schools
- Queen Elizabeth Sixth Form College in Darlington will remain independent and pursue academy status as part of a multi-academy trust with local schools.
All of the colleges have agreed to further develop partnership working with each other as well as employers and key agencies in Tees Valley including the Combined Authority and to establish a joint working body to do this.
Gill Alexander, Hartlepool Council chief executive, said: “These proposals will create a system which delivers world-class further education in the Tees Valley and which fully meets the needs of local young people, adults and employers.