The new Principal at Northumberland College will be leading an ambitious new era – with the help of key stakeholders from across the county.

Gary Potts took over his role at the beginning of this month and one of his first priorities is to meet local school leaders, business bosses and community leaders in order to understand their training needs now and for the future.

“We’ve come a long way over the last couple of years, and building on our fantastic Ofsted inspection, we still plan to do more as we continue to strategically align the skills training we provide with the current and future needs of Northumberland’s workforce,” said Gary.

“In order to deepen my understanding, I’ll be meeting a lot of people over the coming months, as well as exploring the county’s skills needs. We will be stepping up our partnership work with local employers and key stakeholders to ensure we are responsive, agile and can quickly respond to the needs of industry in particular.”

“Over the last three years, Northumberland College has gone from strength to strength after it became part of Education Partnership North East in 2019. This means we are now well placed to help young people progress their careers, and equally to help adults change their careers or upskill and flourish in their existing roles”.

Originally from Easington, Gary left school at 16 wanting to be a police officer, but found a five-year apprenticeship as a toolmaker and designer instead. He moved into stock control and then operations management for another company before starting in the further education (FE) sector as a professional tutor at Darlington College. He completed more than 17 years at Darlington, ending his time there as Assistant Principal, before moving to Education Training Collective, a college group in Tees Valley, as Group Vice Principal for Business, Innovation and Partnerships.

“I think my background gives me a great perspective of the life-changing nature of the FE sector and how it can shape and nurture people’s futures,” Gary said.

Gary is confident about achieving the college’s ambitious future and strategic priorities for each of its campuses.

“The key for us in Ashington is delivering our new state-of-the-art campus in the town centre. We’re delighted to be working with the Department of Education, Advance Northumberland, Ashington Town Board and other partners on our plans for the Wansbeck Business Park site, and we can’t wait to get started. The new campus will deliver the buildings, environment and facilities we need to give our students the education they deserve.

“The same can be said of our Kirkley Hall campus where the recently announced T Level Capital Fund grant will take our provision there to a new level and enable us to offer students new T Level subjects, including new courses in animal, agriculture and engineering.

“And I also look forward to working with partners and stakeholders on plans for our Berwick campus.”

Gary outlined his ambition for the college: “I want to cement the college as a respected anchor institution in the county, a college that is the first-choice destination for students, both young and old.

“I understand the challenges facing the areas we serve. I grew up in a mining community when the pits were closing. I saw first-hand the challenges places like Easington faced and I know the role education, and the FE sector in particular, can play in helping the economy to recover. I see the same sort of challenges and opportunities in Northumberland and want to work with local stakeholders to improve our local communities and the lives of people who live in them.”

Ellen Thinnesen, Chief Executive of Education Partnership North East of which Northumberland College is a part said: “The appointment of our new Principal is not about radical change in direction or setting a new strategic vision, but it is about achieving our ambitions. This means progressive development and smart growth in our financial, business and educational performance.

“Gary and I have already established a great working relationship. We have a well-documented strategic roadmap and I am confident Gary and the Northumberland College leadership team will most certainly deliver”.

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