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Chair of the Board | Education Partnership North East

Lead the Board of one of the most dynamic and successful college groups in the country. Education Partnership North East is looking for a regionally connected and strategically minded person to join them as their Chair.

  • Location: Sunderland, Tees Valley, Northumberland
  • Salary: Voluntary with reasonable expenses

About the role

Following a highly successful two terms as Chair, initially of Sunderland College and now of the Education Partnership North East, Rob Lawson OBE has completed his second term and final term of office. The organisation is looking for a strategic and visionary leader who is connected to the region and able to lead the Board through the College’s next phase of development.

As Chair of the Board, you will lead and inspire the Governing Body, made up of 16 Governors including an elected Staff Governor, Student President, and the CEO. With a geographical reach across the North East region, Governors bring valuable experience and expertise of finance, strategic leadership, education and skills, digital industries, manufacturing, commercial business, local and regional knowledge, and connections. They are an incredibly committed group of non-executive volunteers who give their time freely in support of EPNE’s advancement and impact in the region.

The Board, as a collective group of Governors, is ultimately responsible for ensuring the fulfilment of the College’s legal obligations, deciding the overall strategic direction and educational character of EPNE, as well as ensuring its overall well-being and financial solvency.

The Board is supported by six sub-committees, including Audit; Finance, Resources & Projects; Governance; Northumberland Local Governing Board; Northumberland College Education Quality and Innovation (EQI) and a Sunderland Local Governing Board, some of which you may also choose to join.

Through regular discussions and meetings with the CEO, the Executive Team, Committee Chairs and Governors, you will act as the lead critical friend and work closely with the Head of Corporate Governance & Policy to determine the framework for non-executive oversight and decision-making. Through your influence, the Board will continue to demonstrate the values and behaviours of EPNE and we hope you will be proud to convey these, both internally and externally, as a lead ambassador for EPNE.

In addition to the six Board meetings each year, it is anticipated that you will play a fulfilling role in the life of our colleges. Whilst not needing to be present and on campus several times each week, your engagement and participation in both formal and informal visits on a regular basis will be welcomed by all.

Who we are looking for

Education Partnership North East has been on a transformational journey of success, with significant growth accompanied by substantial investment and the development of a high-quality focused culture which enhances opportunities for both students and staff.

As our next Chair, we need you to quickly grasp our strategy and plans and bring your experience of strategic organisational leadership and knowledge of the North East region, ideally from a sector or industry which compliments and strengthens the current profile of our Board.

As a lead ambassador for our hugely successful organisation, trusted by partners and stakeholders across the region and in Government alike, you will help us deepen and embed existing relationships whilst supporting our exploration of new ones that add to our delivery portfolio.

Ultimately, we need you to know what exceptional corporate governance looks like and recognise its vital importance in the development and delivery of a growing and successful education and skills focused organisation. Through having been a Chair or non-executive board member previously, or through your experience of reporting into a significant and influential board as an executive leader, your understanding of the difference between strategic oversight and operational management will be clear.

Whilst we do not need you to come with a strong and in-depth understanding of the FE and skills sector, it is vital that you have a commitment to leading an organisation that raises aspirations, drives innovation, promotes life-enhancing opportunities and plays a key role in the economic development of the region you are connected into and feel deeply passionate about.

For further information about the role, or to arrange a confidential chat, please contact our advisers at Peridot Partners:

Closing date: 12pm, Monday 14th June 2021

Education recruitment with Drew Richardson-Walsh

If you would like to know more about this role please contact Drew Richardson-Walsh

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Welcome from Rob Lawson OBE, Chair of the Board

Dear Candidate,

For the past eight years I’ve had the honour and privilege to have chaired Sunderland College and then Education Partnership North East (EPNE).

Through the inspirational leadership of our Chief Executive – supported by a knowledgeable, challenging and well-connected Board – we have grown from a single, successful college to one of the region’s largest college groups. Our mantra of ensuring ‘excellence is at the heart of everything we do’ has helped create a dynamic partnership between Sunderland College, Northumberland College and Hartlepool Sixth Form.

Through our varied campuses, which stretch from the Tweed to the Tees, we deliver high-quality academic and technical education, and training. This includes further education, adult education, apprenticeship provision, higher education and specialist provision for students with special education needs and disabilities.

EPNE has adapted remarkably well to the challenges of COVID-19 to ensure our students’ needs both in and out of the classroom have been met.

We’ve recently had major investment in Northumberland and Sunderland – and much more is on its way to help transform our campuses and learning environments. We’re trusted to help spend the investment wisely, and we’re also trusted to spearhead new pioneering initiatives on behalf of the Department for Education. EPNE is nationally recognised and respected, with members of our executive leadership team and board advising Government, Department for Education and the Further Education Commissioner’s Office.

However, there is still much to do, with some truly amazing opportunities on the horizon as further education moves increasingly into the spotlight and up the Government’s list of priorities.

This is why it is such an exciting time to join EPNE as Chair.

We’re looking for an outstanding, regionally connected individual to help lead us to further growth and success. We want a strategic thinker with a passion for education and who understands the vital role further education plays in transforming lives and communities, and someone with the business networks that can help raise the profile of our impressive work.

You’ll need energy, drive, and ambition – and be able to commit properly to the time needed. Our ambition is to be in the top ten colleges nationally for performance and top 25 colleges for financial health. This will involve hard work and determination, but the right team is now in place and I can assure you your time with EPNE will be thoroughly enjoyable and endlessly rewarding.

Are you the person to oversee the next stage of our journey?

Rob Lawson OBE
Chair of the Board
Education Partnership North East

Welcome from Ellen Thinnesen OBE, Chief Executive Officer

Dear Candidate,

Thank you for your interest in becoming Chair of Education Partnership North East and joining our college community of great people, who are deeply passionate about making an outstanding difference across our North East region and the diverse localities we serve.

When applying for any position at Education Partnership North East, a multi-award winning college group, you should know that people matter to us.

We care deeply about authenticity and respect and believe the two go hand-in-hand. This means we want our people to always be respectful – a key requirement for a healthy workplace, combined with a strong commitment to being who we say we are, and doing what we say we will do. From a governance perspective, this results in our prioritisation of high standards, openness and transparency.

We value the human element of people and culture, which means we really engage, listen to and act upon the views of our workforce and varied stakeholders. As Chair we would also want you to sustain this approach with our board members, senior team and of course, our students.

Over a number of years, we have been evolving as a learning organisation. This means we actively seek to learn from our experiences and proactively take steps to educate, train and invest in employees, leaders and governors. This is important to our continual developing culture of innovation, improvement and performance.

We believe it is our unique approach to people, culture, leadership and governance that is attributable to our successful journey to date. This is why careful recruitment and selection of our future Chair is a vitally important exercise.

We are a very large and complex college with multiple campuses and satellite delivery centres situated wholly within and across the North East region. Over the last few years we have also prioritised a significant multi-million-pound investment programme ensuring only the best estates and resources for our staff and students, and excitingly, this work continues.

Our catchment area spans from the Scottish borders through to the Tees Valley, and because of this, we serve multiple wards of significant socio-economic disadvantage. In response we are deeply committed to people, productivity and place, and have developed a strong regional approach to further and higher education and skills strategy. Whilst our regional college group is connected and coherent, our individual colleges (City of Sunderland College, Northumberland College, and Hartlepool Sixth Form), are equally connected and remain responsive to their local communities, an approach we purposefully prioritise.

As our next Chair of Education Partnership North East your role will be incredibly important as we continue to pursue and achieve our aspirational vision for excellence. Our journey so far is already rooted in strong and sustained relationships nationally, regionally and locally. However, as our next Chair, our aspiration is that you will leverage your network and beyond to progress our college group to the next level as a highly connected skills provider working closely with industry, regional stakeholders and government. Quite simply your passion and commitment toward governance of educational and skills strategy and its relationship to social mobility will be vital as we support the North East to recover from the damaging effects of COVID-19.

As a strong Further and Higher Education College, optimistic for our future, I do hope we sound like an organisation that you would feel proud and privileged to chair.

With regards

Ellen Thinnesen OBE
Chief Executive Officer
Education Partnership North East

About Education Partnership North East (EPNE)

Our passion is our strength – we have demonstrated this continuously and will continue to pursue our vision with enthusiasm and determination.

Education Partnership North East (EPNE) is a dynamic partnership between Sunderland College, Hartlepool Sixth Form and Northumberland College. Following a successful merger between the three colleges we are now one of the largest college groups in the country, educating and training 21,500 student enrolments across three counties. With a catchment area stretching from the Scottish border to the Tees Valley, we have seven campuses situated across Sunderland, and in Hartlepool, Berwick-upon-Tweed, Ashington and Ponteland. Whilst working hard to create a one-college approach, each college remains strongly connected to the communities they serve.

EPNE delivers high-quality post-16 education and training through a broad curriculum in academic, professional and technical subjects. We offer qualifications across further, higher and adult education programmes, as well as through apprenticeships and sixth form provision. We also offer specialist provision for students with special education needs and disabilities.

Our sector specialisms align to the key needs of the labour market and are embedded both in our pioneering curriculum development and investment in world-class facilities that equip our students with the relevant skills for industry. EPNE courses are delivered by experienced and dedicated staff and we have some of the best training facilities in the North East.

EPNE specialises in the following industries:

  • Land-based and Animal Management
  • Business, Professional Services and the Visitor Economy
  • Health, Care and Life Sciences
  • Construction and the Built Environment
  • Engineering and Advanced Manufacturing
  • Digital Industries

To realise our vision, EPNE aims to excel in pursuit of excellence to enable our Colleges to increase engagement and improve performance by uniting the large and sprawling populations under one culture and strengthen our reputation locally, regionally and nationally.

Purposefully bold and challenging, EPNE aspire to be:

  • In the top 10 Colleges nationally for student achievement; and
  • In the top 25 Colleges nationally for financial health.

EPNE believe that culture and quality are equally important and as such, place a high value on living and breathing our professional values.

    To access a full job description and application details,
    please fill out the form below.


    Thank you for your interest in this role.

    Please download the Role Description and Person Specification and fill out this Equality Monitoring Form

    For further information about the role, or to arrange a confidential chat, please contact the lead consultant at Peridot Partners:

    Drew Richardson-Walsh | drew@peridotpartners.co.uk | 07739 364 033

    Laura Atter | laura@peridotpartners.co.uk | 07985 431 599

    Please submit a CV and supporting statement (maximum two sides of A4) that clearly outlines your suitability for the role against the criteria provided in the person specification. Please include your interest and motivation in applying for this position. Please also complete the Equality Monitoring Survey.

    Please ensure that your application and Equality Monitoring Survey is emailed to response@peridotpartners.co.uk inserting “EPNE – Chair” into the subject field.

    Disabled applicants are invited to contact us in confidence at any point during the recruitment process to discuss steps that could be taken to overcome operational difficulties presented by the job, or if any adjustments or support are required regarding the recruitment process.

    We wish to encourage applications regardless of race, colour, nationality, ethnic or national origins, sex, disability, sexual orientation, gender reassignment, marital or civil partner status, pregnancy or maternity, age or religion or belief.

    All applications will be considered solely on merit.


    Closing date for applications: 12pm, Monday 14th June 2021
    Candidates informed by: 5pm, Tuesday 22nd June 2021
    Interviews: Tuesday 6th July 2021

    Equal Opportunities Monitoring

    Peridot and Education Partnership North East are committed to promoting equality and diversity. To help us raise awareness and support a culture that is diverse and recognises and develops the potential of all, we need to appreciate the profile of candidates who apply for positions. We would therefore be most grateful if you would complete this Equality Monitoring Form.

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