Bumper crop of farm students as Otley rises again following merger
PUBLISHED: 16:21 29 October 2020 | UPDATED: 16:21 29 October 2020
In 2004, Otley College was down to just five farming students.
Today, a bumper roll of 52 learners are either starting courses or continuing full-time learning at the Otley campus, which is now home to Suffolk Rural, the rural arm of Suffolk New College. An additional 11 learners are currently on apprenticeship courses.
The Ipswich-based institution took over the running of the land-based learning centre after it was de-merged from Easton College in Norwich after two damning Ofsted reports at the end of last year (2019).
MORE – ‘It’s official’ – college mergers set to go ahead on January 1
Now a new enthusiasm for studying agriculture - possibly prompted by the coronavirus crisis – is attracting a vastly invigorated intake.
Fifty years since the college opened with the aim of supporting rural communities and industries, staff at the college are buoyed by the rise. Director of curriculum Lynsey Wilson said the appeal of agricultural careers appears to be widening.
“This year, farming numbers are as high as they have been for as long as I can remember,” she said.
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“I think that it’s possibly down to the fact that the importance and profile of farming seems to have escalated somewhat during lockdown. In 2020/21, we have seen a mix of students from both farming and non-farming backgrounds come and join us.”
One of this year’s crop is 18-year-old Martina Wisniewska of Felixstowe, who originally studied equine studies at the college but switched to a farming course in 2019 after getting involved in the annual lambing weekend.
She is currently on a level three programme and scooped the Agricultural Student of the Year accolade at the 2020 annual college awards.
“Studying agriculture has been incredibly enjoyable. Being outside and doing something different every day is why I can’t wait to work in this great industry,” she said.
Nathan Rayner, 18, from Mendlesham - whose father is an accountant – has also just started a course at the college. He became keen on farming after securing a job on a farm last summer.
“I enjoy working with machinery and this course has been a real eye-opener in a positive way,” he said.
Wanda Kowalcyzk, 17, from Ipswich, doesn’t have a background in farming but hopes to work as a consultant after finishing her farming course at Otley and gaining a degree at university.
“The course is more hands-on than I thought and we’ve been driving tractors and work on lots of practical assignments. In my opinion, if they taught farming like this at high schools, the industry wouldn’t struggle to get more people interested in agriculture,” she said.
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