Northumberland College Principal Nigel Harrett has announced his retirement after more than three decades of working in further education. 

This summer staff and students at Northumberland College will bid a fond farewell to Nigel who took over the helm in 2019 as the college became part of Education Partnership North East, the largest college group in the region, which also includes Sunderland College and Hartlepool Sixth Form. 

Under his leadership the specialist technical and land-based college has undergone a transformation programme which included a successful OFSTED inspection and strengthened links with partners and stakeholders, as well as significant investment in facilities and learning environments at its Ashington and Kirkley Hall campuses. 

Nigel, who lives locally in Ponteland, said: “It has been a real privilege to lead Northumberland College and to use my leadership skills to positively impact the college’s success. I will always be passionate about the importance of education and the role it plays in upskilling communities and improving economies. 

“I am proud of the strong team at Northumberland College, and I am sure Gary Potts, my successor, will continue to implement our ambitious vision at this exciting time – the college has a pivotal role to play as the county continues to develop.” 

Starting his career working for the Newcastle and Gateshead Water Company with an ambition to becoming an accountant, Nigel’s desire to make a positive difference to the lives young people and communities led him to combine the two in 1989 by teaching accounting and business at Sunderland College. 

Nigel progressed through the ranks, to Deputy Principal and Deputy Chief Executive with overall responsibility for curriculum and quality management, making a significant contribution to the college’s success by improving the student experience, and ensuring an innovative career focussed curriculum. 

In 2019, Northumberland College was required to merge by the Further Education Commissioner and Sunderland College was selected as the merger partner, a decision supported by the Department for Education. Subsequently, Nigel took the helm as Principal for Northumberland College with responsibility for implementing an ambitious stage of growth and development. 

Ellen Thinnesen, Chief Executive, said: “Having worked together over these the past six years, I am deeply grateful to Nigel for his tremendous commitment and loyalty to the vision, values, and strategy of our college group. 

“As an important member of our wider executive leadership team, Nigel has not only played a key role in the implementation of momentous change at Northumberland College, he has also dedicated the entirety of his educational career to our college group. This is a tremendous achievement. 

“Nigel has a lot to be proud of and can retire knowing he has truly made a difference.” 

AkzoNobel’s Head of Ashington Manufacturing and Chair of the Local Governing Board at Northumberland College, Jeff Hope, added: “Nigel’s authentic, hardworking and down to earth approach was exactly what our college needed.  

“I have found him brilliant to work with, not least because of his enthusiasm and passion to secure a great college for Northumberland, but because he genuinely cares about people and a positive future for the students, staff and our community. As a county we owe him a lot.” 

Northumberland College recently announced the appointment of Gary Potts as the new Principal following a rigorous selection process. Gary, who is currently Group Vice Principal for Business, Innovation and Partnerships at Education Training Collective (Etc.), will take up the reins from Nigel in August. 

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