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College dealt new blow after second damning inspection report

PUBLISHED: 08:18 12 November 2018 | UPDATED: 12:42 12 November 2018

Principal Jane Townsend at the Otley campus of Easton and Otley College Picture: SARAH CHAMBERS

Principal Jane Townsend at the Otley campus of Easton and Otley College Picture: SARAH CHAMBERS

Archant

A Suffolk and Norfolk land-based college has been dealt a crushing blow after inspectors rated it "inadequate" for the second year in a row.

College’s challenging year

May 2017 - Full inspection is carried out, following a previous ‘good’ rating

July 2017 - Inspectors’ damning report published, in which college is rated ‘inadequate’

August 2017 - Mark Pendlington appointed new chair of governors

August 2017 - Principal 
David Henley quits. Later, 
Jane Townsend is appointed interim principal

March 2018 - Jane Townsend appointed principal

March 2018 - College 
announces plans to shed 65 
jobs as it embarks on recovery plan

October 2018 - Inspectors return for second full inspection

November 2018 - Second full inspection report published, 
in which college rated ‘inadequate’

Disappointed Easton and Otley College chiefs, who have been striving for the past year or more to get the college back on track, felt its second full inspection in 17 months came too soon to reflect improvements made through their ambitious turnaround strategy.

Principal and chief executive Jane Townsend said she was “enormously disappointed”, but would proceed with “resolute determination” following the second Ofsted, published today (Monday, November 12).

She took up her role in March of this year following the departure of her predecessor, David Henley, after Ofsted’s first damning report, published in July 2017. He quit following a full inspection in May last year and a previous “good” rating.

Based just outside Ipswich and Norwich, the college - whose 544-strong staff caters for around 5,000 students - was inspected with short notice in early October this year, when it was judged to be ‘inadequate’, the lowest category.

The Otley campus of Easton and Otley College Picture: SARAH CHAMBERSThe Otley campus of Easton and Otley College Picture: SARAH CHAMBERS

Following last year’s shock report, the college took immediate action, appointing industry heavyweight Mark Pendlington, director of corporate affairs at Anglian Water, and former chairman of the New Anglia Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP). He took over the reins from Sally Bendall in August 2017.

Since the report, the college has faced numerous challenges, including budget and staff cuts, but had hoped its new business plan would be further advanced before a second full inspection.

“I cannot hide my disappointment at this assessment, but I am so very pleased to see that the report does at the same time highlight some areas in which substantial change has already been made,” said Ms Townsend. Areas around apprenticeships and high needs students had been awarded a “good” rating, she said. But it had been a “challenging” year, she admitted. “This inspection comes a little too soon to truly capture the improvements we have been making, or to feel the full positive impact of the body of new senior management which are now in place.”

Mr Pendlington expressed frustration at the inspection’s timing, but said the board was “absolutely committed” to making the college relevant and respected.

Principal Jane Townsend and chair of governors Mark Pendlington in the horticultural area at the Otley campus of Easton and Otley College Picture: SARAH CHAMBERSPrincipal Jane Townsend and chair of governors Mark Pendlington in the horticultural area at the Otley campus of Easton and Otley College Picture: SARAH CHAMBERS

Major changes to staffing and budgets at Easton and Otley College had been “not at all comfortable”, he admitted.

Mr Pendlington, who brought in a new management team and a new approach after taking on the role last year, said he came into the role knowing it would be challenging, but said the college was on course to be a hub for rural economy talent, drawing it to the region instead of losing it to other parts of the country.

The college was in the “early days” of a very dynamic phase, with the aim of making it “relevant, respected, and very much a proud reflection of the region’s agricultural heritage”. There were “some phenomenal business partnerships in place, a wealth of professional expertise through our staff and our board, and a culture of people across the campuses wanting to shout proudly about what’s being achieved here”.

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