Local communities across the North East will be able to benefit from free distance learning courses throughout the COVID-19 crisis and beyond, thanks to regional college group Education Partnership North East.

    The college group, which includes Sunderland College, Hartlepool Sixth Form and Northumberland College, has further developed its range of high-quality distance learning courses so individuals can gain new skills and knowledge, safely from their own home.

    Those aged 24 and over, can study a range of courses for free to enhance their CV or career prospects. For those who are in isolation or have been furloughed, distance learning courses can also help to support their mental wellbeing and keep their mind active.

    Heather Harrop, Curriculum Manager for Employability and Community at Sunderland College, said:

    “We have an excellent reputation for our distance learning expertise. Last year, there were approximately 3,500 distance learning qualifications successfully completed through the college.

    “Throughout these challenging times, these courses are helping to keep people safe and engaged in learning. We are proud to be able to offer distance learning opportunities that will continue to help us in increasing social mobility, improving skill levels and enhancing employment prospects within the communities that we serve.”

    During the current pandemic, distance learning is allowing individuals to study nationally-recognised qualifications and offer the flexibility of deciding when and where to study. The distance learning courses take from 3 hours to 16 weeks to complete.

    Courses include a wide variety of subjects including starting your own business, IT and digital skills, team leading, customer service, mental health awareness, health and safety, equality and diversity and maths and English. New courses include Improving Productivity using IT, Presentation Software, Word Processing Software and Award in Understanding Employment, Business and Enterprise.

    Claire Fraser, who is currently studying the Understanding Children and Young People’s Mental Health course at home, added:

    “I decided to study this course as it is a subject which really interests me and I wanted to take advantage of the current situation. Having more time on my hands has allowed me to learn something new.

    “I have taken so much from studying this course already; my daughter suffers from anxiety and low self-esteem, so I have also learned techniques that can benefit our family too.

    “Being in lockdown with two young children has been a juggling act but I’ve looked forward to sitting down once they are in bed and doing my coursework. It’s great to be able to fit it around family life and no time has been taken away from my children as attending college would have done.

    “The course has helped me realise I am passionate about this area. As well as expanding personal knowledge I am now hoping to pursue a career in counselling to help children and families who need support. I am currently on the waiting list for the college’s Counselling distance learning course.”

    Distance learning courses are not aligned to academic terms, so can be started any time. Find out more and apply now by visiting www.sunderlandcollege.ac.uk, www.hartlepoolsixth.ac.uk or www.northumberland.ac.uk.

    Why Education Partnership North East (EPNE)?

    Highly commended - Employer of the Year, Sunderland Echo Portfolio Awards 2019

    Engagement with Employers - Association of Colleges (AoC) Beacon Award 2017

    (Sunderland College On-programme Survey 2017)

    Selected by DfE for 2021 T Level pilot to deliver the new high-quality technical qualifications.

    98% overall employer satisfaction - Employer Survey 2018/19