Hartlepool College of FE chief’s fond farewell

Darren Hankey (left) and Michael Bretherick
Darren Hankey (left) and Michael Bretherick

A PRINCIPAL who started out as a lecturer at the same college four decades ago before working his way up is to retire.

Michael Bretherick, who first joined Hartlepool College of Further Education way back in October 1979 as a lecturer in economics, business and general studies, is stepping down as principal at the end of the month.

The proud Yorkshireman, but adopted Poolie, has taught more than 5,000 students over the past 34 years and regards many of them as friends to this day.

Current vice principal Darren Hankey will take over the reins from August 1 and he admits he has “big shoes” to fill.

Mr Bretherick, 55, became head of section then senior lecturer in 1986 and then director of training and student services and joined the executive committee in 1989.

He moved further up the ranks later becoming assistant principal in 1997, deputy principal in 2002 then vice principal three years later before taking the top job in 2009.

Mr Bretherick said: “It is certainly very rare that someone who started out as a lecturer has then gone on to become principal of the same college.

“I am very proud of having taught more than 5,000 students and celebrated all their successes and many are still in touch, and many are now good friends.

“I remember with particular affection the residential courses I organised in the Lake District, where hundreds of students had memorable experiences of outdoor activities and great socials.

“I have enormous affection for the town, I moved here in 1979 for one year and stayed ever since.”

Mr Bretherick lived in town before recently moving to North Yorkshire where he is looking forward to enjoying an “outdoors lifestyle and regular visits to France”.

After a three month summer break, he intends to continue his association with the Stockton Street college and pursue a number of other interest including becoming chief executive of the new charitable venture, the Gus Robinson Foundation, which will be launched shortly.

It will provide aspiring youngsters with scholarships in the areas of engineering, aerospace and sport.

Dan Robinson, who took over the reins of Gus Robinson Developments after his father Gus died in November 2011, said: “We are really excited about getting it up and running and this will be something really positive for Hartlepool.”

Mr Bretherick, a former governor of Barnard Grove Primary School and Manor College, will also continue his links with the Hartlepool Sporting Association.

He added: “I am very grateful for the support of many people including Ray Waller, previous chairman and Professor Aidan Mullan, current chairman of the board of governors as well as key individuals such as the former elected mayor Stuart Drummond, great supporters Lord Peter Mandelson and Iain Wright, school headteachers including Alan White, formerly of Manor College, and entrepreneurs and business leaders such as Dan Robinson and Cath Purdy.”

Mr Bretherick, who paid tribute to past and current staff and students, said: “The pinnacle of my career is certainly the completion of the £52m College campus with its stunning international design, which will be topped off soon with the installation of a “gate guardian” aeroplane in the car park.”

The Jet Provost trainer aircraft, used by the Royal Air Force, will be installed as a feature in the car park within the next few weeks.

The Leeds United fan will remain as a non-executive director of North Tees and Hartlepool NHS Foundation Trust.

THE new man at the helm of Hartlepool College of Further Education is looking forward to the challenge but admits he has “big shoes” to fill.

Darren Hankey, who joined the college in 2001 as head of development business and management, officially becomes the new principal on August 1.

The dad-of-two said: “I am looking forward to the challenge.

“The two key targets are to continue driving up academic standards at the college and to continue to balance the books.

“Times are hard in the public sector at the moment but we are up to the challenge.

“Michael Bretherick leaves behind a great legacy for the college and the town and it is about building on that.

“I certainly have big shoes to fill but we have some excellent staff here and I’m looking forward to the challenge.”

Mr Hankey said he knows the importance of further education from his own personal experience and he said his time at college in Leicester planted the seed for him to go on to university in Sunderland, which brought him to the North East.

The 43-year-old, who is originally from Leicester but now lives in Durham, became an assistant principal at the college in 2009 before becoming vice principal last year.

Outgoing principal Michael Bretherick said: “I am delighted to offer my 100 per cent support to Darren who will take over in August.”

Mr Bretherick said the Stockton Street-based College had a long and proud tradition of promoting vice principals to the principal job and he said it helps establish a culture within the hierarchy.

He added: “We have a great tradition of saying what works for Hartlepool and sticking to it.”