From humble beginnings growing up on the St Marks council estate in Leicester to Principal of a UK Further Education College, Darren Hankey’s journey has been a remarkable one.
Despite his current role as Principal of Hartlepool College of Further Education and in his own words, Darren admits that during his childhood, “education was not spoken about at home” and he was “never asked if homework was being done”.
After attending Soar Valley Community College, he left school with three O Levels (GCSEs) and went straight into work – college/university was not even a consideration.
The beginning of a career pathway
He started his career picking books in a warehouse where he gained economic independence and positive attributes including “politeness, punctuality and respect”.
However, he soon realised that his lack of qualifications was holding him back in the world of work so with the support of his employer, he went back to college at Southfields (now Leicester College) where he took a two-year management qualification over two nights per week. He “flourished” at Leicester College and later moved on to the more demanding Diploma course which “whetted his appetite for learning”.
A college lecturer then asked Darren if he’d considered going to university. His family was still resistant to this idea but after re-taking several more GCSEs, Darren applied for a Business degree at Sunderland University. Darren says that his time at Leicester College “really did transform my life and opened my eyes to the prospect of going to university”.
Re-focusing on opportunities in teaching
Darren had never really thought about teaching in further education but got a brief glimpse whilst working for a professor in Texas during his placement year at university. He took a PGCE course at Greenwich before working at Hammersmith and West London College in London. He then returned to the north east to take up a role at Hartlepool College of Further Education where he worked in middle management and programme leadership positions before moving onto the senior team, becoming Assistant Principal, Vice Principal and finally in 2013, the College’s Principal and Chief Executive.
Based on his own personal learnings, Darren says that one of his key messages to students in Hartlepool is that “you’ve got to focus on your qualifications but that your positive attitude and good behaviour is equally important.”
Darren concludes by saying: “Leicester College put their belief in me and my life would have been completely different if they hadn’t. Simply put, Leicester College helped to transform my life and I shall be forever grateful.”