A groundbreaking partnership is supporting the next generation of sporting stars on and off the pitch.
TyneMet has become the first North East college to join a national network of elite sporting institutions.
The college has been awarded prestigious dual career accreditation from the Sport England-backed Talented Athlete Scholarship Scheme (TASS).
And delighted TyneMet bosses believe there has never been a better opportunity for local athletes to realise their sporting dreams – and attain academic excellence – without the added pressure of leaving home.
Chris Wall, deputy head of sport at TyneMet, said: “We have a small pool of elite individual athletes who can only benefit from our partnership with TASS.
“If we can get it right for them then we’ll look to broaden our reach. We’ve just sent seven girls down to the English Colleges football trials and the successful players will all have access to TASS support.
“What this might do is alert the region’s universities to the fact that TASS are working with us to develop the next generation of student athlete.
“I am hoping that TASS will help us to provide a clear pathway for local talent and give them an opportunity to stay in the North East and develop as elite athletes on our doorstep.”
TASS works with young people in further and higher education across England - providing financial assistance and practical support to those juggling elite sport with a full-time education.
The Newcastle-based organisation is funded by Sport England via the National Lottery and already works closely with North East universities.
The decision to roll out Dual Career Accreditation status to further education institutions was made earlier this year.
Wall added: “I was asked to explore the idea of us applying to TASS to join their network.
“I was aware of TASS and its history working with universities in the North East. However, I was intrigued to know how the Dual Career programme could work for colleges.
“TASS came in and provided us with more detail around what they could do and what we were required to do in order to be accredited. That’s when the hard work started!”
Kirsty O’Connor, National Lead (Institutions), TASS said: “We are delighted that TyneMet have become the latest FE institution to become a TASS Dual Career Accredited Centre.
“The academic support systems and flexibility options that they have in place, such as accessing lesson resources outside of the classroom or flexible deadlines on assignments, make it the ideal place for Dual Career athletes to pursue both their sporting and academic careers.
“We look forward to working with them as part of our ever expanding TASS network.”
TyneMet have targeted a number of individual athletes who they believe will benefit from TASS support.
Students engaged in archery, gymnastics, athletics, figure skating and powerlifting will all be offered support stemming from the Dual Career Accreditation scheme.
And Wall added: “We see this as the start of something very special for our students and hugely significant for the college.
“From a purely selfish perspective the fact that we have partnered with TASS is a significant recruitment tool.
“As far as sport’s various national governing bodies are concerned it shows that we’re a college that’s committed to supporting athletes and helping them to bridge the gap between further education and higher education and, at the same time, developing as elite athletes.
“In the end gaining the accreditation was a tough process but ask anyone at TyneMet and they’ll tell you it was genuinely worthwhile.
“We applied at a time when the Dual Career Accreditation scheme for colleges was in its infancy so there were no comparable examples on which to base our application. We took a step into the unknown but we’ve been rewarded for taking that chance.”