Sixth form colleges get green light for merger

Hartlepool Sixth Form College.
Hartlepool Sixth Form College.

Two colleges have been given the go-ahead to merge after their leaders “unanimously backed” the proposals.

Hartlepool Sixth Form College and Sunderland College announced in March they were in discussions about a potential merger, and today it was confirmed they will come together to create a super-institution for education.

Sunderland College's Bede Campus.

Sunderland College's Bede Campus.

The changes will start this month, with bosses stating it will make a “more resilient” sixth form for Hartlepool and a larger “more robust” Sunderland College Group.

The teams say the colleges have run a wide-reaching consultation process with overwhelming support for the idea, which has also received the backing of the Sixth Form Commissioner and FE Commissioner.

Chairman of the board of governors at Hartlepool Sixth Form College, Jonathan Brash, said: “It was clear that there was a fantastic cultural fit between Sunderland College and Hartlepool Sixth Form, and the board is absolutely convinced this partnership will deliver a strong and sustainable provision for the young people of Hartlepool.

“Ultimately, both Hartlepool Sixth Form College and Sunderland College want the absolute best for the young people of their respective areas and this merger will deliver just that.”

We are really pleased to become part of Sunderland College, a move that will strengthen Hartlepool Sixth Form College and further improve our excellent standard of teaching, learning and student support.

Jonathan Brash

Stephan Jungnitz, Hartlepool Sixth Form College’s interim principal, added said: “We are really pleased to become part of Sunderland College, a move that will strengthen Hartlepool Sixth Form College and further improve our excellent standard of teaching, learning and student support.

“We are looking forward to working with our colleagues in Sunderland over the summer as we join a wider group, and to sharing best practice along the way to ensure that provision in the Hartlepool area is the strongest it has ever been.”

Originally known as West Hartlepool Grammar School, or Brinkburn Grammar School, Hartlepool Sixth Form College now serves more than 850 16 to 18-year-old students from the town and surrounding area.

Sunderland Sixth Form, originally Bede Grammar School, is delivered from Sunderland College’s Bede Campus and serves more than 600 students from Sunderland, Washington and County Durham.

Chairman of the board of governors at Hartlepool Sixth Form College, Jonathan Brash.

Chairman of the board of governors at Hartlepool Sixth Form College, Jonathan Brash.

Ellen Thinnesen, principal and chief executive of Sunderland College, will have overall responsibility for the newly expanded portfolio.

She said: “Young people in Hartlepool absolutely deserve the best educational opportunities in a personalised, safe, innovative, high-quality learning environment that is focused on standards, performance and success; we are determined to deliver only the very best into the future at Hartlepool Sixth Form College.”

Since 2015, sixth forms and further education colleges have been under scrutiny by the Government as it looks to ensure financial viability and sustainable organisations which deliver the most value for public money.

The colleges say this will be at the core of their merger plans.

Ellen Thinnesen, principal of Sunderland College.

Ellen Thinnesen, principal of Sunderland College.