THE new chairman of governors at South Tyneside College has pledged to expand the influence of its famous marine school across the world.
Greater business and community partnerships are also high on the agenda for Andrew Watts.
Mr Watts said increasing educational opportunities and outcomes for thousands of students would be crucial to success in forward planning, as well as managing finances and meeting Government education priorities.
The 44-year-old aims to meet his targets by building up a partnership of support with management at the South Shields college and by applying experience he has gained while working with community groups in his role as executive director of the charity Groundwork South Tyneside and Newcastle.
Mr Watts said also hopes to increase the role played by South Shields Marine School, a key and prominent college faculty, by furthering its global partnership opportunities.
The father of two, a governor for three years, said: “I very much hope I can build a lot of connectivity by increasing the college’s links with businesses and the community it serves.
“The college is very much a focal point in the borough and directly contributes to the South Tyneside economic regeneration targets, and I am very keen to build on mutually beneficial opportunities.
“It is quite unique to have a college with a historic marine school, and I want to develop this world-famous facility further alongside other activities and opportunities for all our students.
“I want the college to continue to provide the maximum outcomes for learners.
“Financial challenges are an issue for all colleges and public-sector organisations, but we have been proactive and have planned for the future.
“The governors are here to show leadership and support the management team and help steer the ship in the right direction.”
He has taken over in the role from retired Audit Commission inspector Les Watson, 63. Mr Watson will continue as a governor after taking the chair for the maximum of two years.
David Byrne becomes the new vice-chairman, a role previously filled by the late Jane McBride, an independent councillor for Westoe on South Tyneside Council.
Mr Watts, who lives in County Durham with his wife Clare, 40, and children Rosie, five, and Joseph, three, added: “I believe that David and I can form a very good partnership.
“He has a strong marine background, which I know will work well alongside my strengths.
“I am very much looking forward to this new challenge and to working alongside both Lindsey and David.”
College chief executive Lindsey Whiterod said: “Andrew is very highly regarded and respected, and he brings with him great insight of education and community work.
“The college requires a strong board of governors, and that is what we have.
“Working together, we will strive to further improve the standard of education we provide.
“I’m looking forward to working closely with Andrew, and I’m sure he will be an inspiring chair.
“I must also thank and congratulate Les for his dedication and hard work.”
Mr Watson added: “My time as chair has been characterised by the college facing numerous challenges and making some difficult decisions.
“Our last Ofsted report was very good, but there can be no resting on laurels, and the challenge is to continue the improvements that have taken place under the current management.
“I have greatly enjoyed my time as chair, and I now wish Andrew all the very best.”