Concerns raised over proposed Hartlepool college merger

From left; Julie Collins, Jonathan Brash, and Maureen Bunter of Hartlepool Sixth Form College, and Ellen Thinnesen, Rob Lawson and Nigel Harrett, of Sunderland College.

From left; Julie Collins, Jonathan Brash, and Maureen Bunter of Hartlepool Sixth Form College, and Ellen Thinnesen, Rob Lawson and Nigel Harrett, of Sunderland College.

Hartlepool education bosses have raised concerns over a planned college merger.

In a leaked letter, Hartlepool College of Further Education, expressed worries about a proposed merger beteen neighbouring Hartlepool Sixth Form College and SunderlandCollege.

Darren Hankey

Darren Hankey

A consultation on the merger has just closed - but a spokesperson from Hartlepool Sixth Form College said feedback suggested the proposal was “well-supported”.

The Mail recently reported the planned merger with the two colleges claiming it would create a “super-institution” for education and would also secure financial stability for Hartlepool Sixth Form College and its Brinkburn site, which has around 850 students.

When the idea was announced, Mo Bunter, principal of Hartlepool Sixth Form College, said: “Sunderland College is a tremendously well-respected institution, and one that we believe will help to take Hartlepool’s provision to the next level.”

However, in the letter to the Hartlepool Sixth Form executives, from Darren Hankey, principal, and Aidan Mullan, chairman of governors, at Hartlepool College of FE, which the Mail has obtained a copy of, the pair say the move could have a detrimental affect on the town.

Ultimately, we feel this is a loss to the town, a loss to the Tees Valley

Hartlepool College of FE

The letter said: “The last thing Hartlepool and the Tees Valley needs is another large post-16 provider entering the area and this is exactly what the proposed merger will do.”

They said the planned merger could take learners away from Hartlepool to take up higher education and apprenticeship opportunities elsewhere.”

The pair say the merger would have an adverse impact on Hartlepool College FE and the feel the recommendation to merge the two town colleges was sensible.

They said: “The merger of two Hartlepool colleges would have provided a platform for the newly established college to thrive and potentially grow due to areas of genuine expertise and competitive advantage. The opportunity for a Hartlepool model will soon be lost.

A HSFC spokesman added: “Most importantly, this proposal is all about Hartlepool and its young people.

“Our merger consultation has only just closed and we are in the process of fully appraising all stakeholder feedback. Several discussions with providers in the area suggest that this is a well- supported proposal, but we are taking on board all feedback, which will be shared online in due course, at which point, Governors will make a decision.

“The merger with Sunderland College is one that seeks to protect the Brinkburn site and HartlepoolSixth Form College into the future, along with our strong specialist sixth form provision. This is a proposal that is absolutely geared towards delivering excellence locally.

“We are genuinely committed to working in partnership across the Tees Valley and locally and to support business growth and the aspirations of young people and their parents.

“We passionately believe that this merger will be hugely positive for young people in the town.”