Sunderland College is helping some of the North East’s best young athletes reach their potential in education alongside achieving success in their sport.
The Sport England–backed Talented Athlete Scholarship Scheme (TASS) is a partnership between talented athletes, educational institutions and national governing bodies of sport, allowing the allows country’s exciting talents get the best from their sporting and academic careers without having to choose between the two.
Following an independent evaluation of the scheme, conducted by Canterbury Christ Church University, Sunderland College’s TASS Coordinator Carl Jones spoke to tass.gov.uk to give an insight into the positive work being done by accredited institutions.
“Athletes in further education truly benefit from targeted support,” said Carl. “At Sunderland College we’re able to ensure that they get the support that’s specific to their sport.
“We cater to a wide variety of sports, from boxers to track and field athletes to golfers, and there are no barriers to what those dual career athletes can achieve give the right level of support. We are very flexible with our student athlete offer and our TASS accreditation helps with that flexibility.“
Sunderland College provides everything young athletes need to help them perform at the highest level, including sport-specific strength and conditioning training with the on-site Martin Nugent Elite Performance Centre, nutritional guidance, physiotherapy referrals, performance analysis and access to sports psychologists.
But student–athletes also face a unique challenge to keep up with their sport while studying towards A-Levels or vocational qualifications. Sunderland College, through the TASS scheme, helps strike a balance by working closely with coaches and governing bodies to ensure academic studies are flexible with their sporting commitments.
Carl adds: “There is clearly a need for clear channels of communication between athletes, coaches and academic staff. I work with the college lecturers to ensure they are well aware of individual students’ sporting commitments and how those commitments may impact upon their timetable.
“On the other side of the coin, it’s hugely important that we don’t hinder what our students’ education looks like and so it’s all about collaboration and communication.
“We work closely with coaches and governing bodies to plan in advance. It is a three-way conversation and we’re all connected to ensure study our students’ programmes are adjusted accordingly.“
Sunderland College was awarded TASS accreditation in 2018 in recognition of its commitment to supporting talented athletes compete at the highest level, as well as gaining qualifications to prepare them for their chosen careers.
Notable Sunderland College alumni include Paralympic gold medallist Matt Wylie MBE, who is considering heading back to university and become a Lawyer after retiring from swimming, with the flexibility of studying Law alongside coaching and competing helping provide that platform for the future.
“Students considering Sunderland know that we’re a TASS accredited centre and they know that extra support is part of our offer,” Carl said. “It’s very much on their agenda when they’re looking at why to study here.
“We are committed to supporting our dual career athletes both in terms of their overall fitness and their profile. Students in further education don’t always have a programme that’s stipulated by their specific sport and not all of them are on talent pathways. Some are — and we do have students who are already attached to Loughborough and Leeds as an example — but as a TASS accredited college we’re able to tailor what we do to the particular needs of our dual career students.“
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Our achievement rates are well above the national average.
We are the College of the Year.
(*Top college nationally for BTECs, Pearson 2019)
100% of our HND and HNC students progressed to employment or further study.
(*Destination data, academic year 2016/17, HNC 19+)
We have recently invested £50 million in our facilities.