The last three years have seen Northumberland College go from strength to strength and the college’s leadership team is looking towards an ambitious and bright future.

The college’s Chief Executive Ellen Thinnesen explained how important it is that Northumberland College contributes to place shaping.  She said: “There are many exciting and positive economic developments across Northumberland and wider region. It is vitally important our college continues to contribute to this agenda and equally supports the growth of thriving and inclusive communities. Leadership is key to this and it’s a pleasure to be able to shine a spotlight on some of Northumberland College’s leadership team.”

Gary Potts, Northumberland College’s new Principal, explained the contribution the college already makes to the socio-economic development of the region: “Joining a college where 94 per cent of students already progress to a positive destination, including to apprenticeships, higher level study and employment, is a high bar. However, together we must continue to improve because more than ever, technical and academic education is critical to the creation of skilled human resource, the success of industry, and improved quality of life for those living in our diverse communities.”

Gary took over his role during the summer, joining a number of experienced further education leaders who, along with the college’s wider workforce, have been responsible for the progress and success Northumberland College has made since it joined Education Partnership North East, a regional further and higher education college group, in 2019.

Vice Principal Lee Lister welcomed Gary to the new team: “Gary and I are already working closely together and are ambitious for what our college can achieve in the future.”

He went on to explain that over the last three years, Northumberland College has benefitted from huge investment, including at its Kirkley Hall land-based campus in Ponteland, and that work is to start soon on a building an exciting new technical college in Ashington at Wansbeck Business Park.

Lee added that with the support of the Department for Education, the college’s new cutting-edge campus is currently being designed with the needs of industry and technical skills in mind: “The new campus will not only be game changer for our staff and students, it will also make a significant contribution to the regeneration of Ashington.”

Iain Nixon, Vice Principal for Partnerships and Commercial, went on to explain how a partnerships with organisations based in the North East is equally an exciting opportunity for the college to help local people find local jobs.

Iain said: “Working with organisations means we are together supporting the development of home grown talent and their first cohort of engineering technician apprentices have already started with us.

“Our new Ashington campus will include specialist higher technical provision in advanced manufacturing and engineering, construction and digital linked to the emerging green economy. It will also be our new location for off-the-job apprentice training, employability skills training for adults seeking employment or upskilling to help them progress in their careers, as well as for young people leaving school aspiring to work in these industries.”

Warick Stephenson, Assistant Principal, said the college’s recent full Ofsted inspection culminated in Good and Outstanding grades. He also went on to say: “Student achievements are some of the best the college has ever seen and student satisfaction rates are now some of the best nationally.”

Karen Bell, who has worked at Northumberland College for 12 years as a specialist in animal and equine, is also celebrating her internal promotion to the post of Executive Director at Kirkley Hall Campus. Karen said: “It’s an exciting time at the college, we’ve seen major investment which has improved our education and skills provision beyond recognition.”

Karen added: “As well as physical improvements in veterinary science facilities, an international standard equestrian arena, zoological training facilities and infrastructure such as wifi and connectivity, there has been a change in culture which is equally as important. It’s a really positive, supportive environment to work and study, and our students and staff appreciate this greatly.”

And it doesn’t stop there. Lee Lister went on to outline further capital investment in new agricultural, engineering and digital facilities: “These ambitious investments, supported by the Department for Education will mean we can expand our curriculum through the roll out of new T Level qualifications into these important skills areas.”

Rob Stewart, Curriculum Director at Ashington Campus, said: “It’s great to be part of this leadership team. As a team we work very well together because we share common values and are dedicated to changing the lives of others for the better. While this means relentless and sustained focus on excellence, as a team we love what we do. We work hard together, laugh together, succeed together and importantly are collectively accountable for our decisions.

“One of our many successes recently included securing £2.4 million in partnership with colleges and local training providers from the North of Tyne Combined Authority. With the funds we will be working with partners to lead on reshaping technical skills training in the low carbon energy generation and electric and hybrid vehicle sectors. We are very grateful to the Department for Education who have supported us through this national Strategic Development Fund.”

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