Chair of governors slams box-ticking, ‘culture of process’ and ‘backs being covered’ as college broken up

Outgoing chair of governors at Easton and Otley College Mark Pendlington Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN

Outgoing chair of governors at Easton and Otley College Mark Pendlington Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN - Credit: Archant

A chair of governors has hit out at the “heavy hand” of regulators as his college sought to recover from the blow of two successive failed Ofsted inspections.

Easton and Otley College is set to be broken up - with its Suffolk campus at Otley coming under the auspices of Suffolk New College, and the Easton campus becoming part of City College Norwich - at the end of this year.

Mark Pendlington criticised the "risk averse nature and heavy hand of regulation" it faced as it sought "to recover, thrive and grow" following the inspectors' devastating verdicts.

MORE - Merger plans for Easton and Otley College receive 'overwhelming support'Reflecting on a tumultuous year, he described "a culture of process, with boxes having to be ticked and backs being covered".

This, he said, was "a poor substitute for showing faith in those with good ideas, experience and innovative thinking, who are willing to take calculated risks and work with experts to create something very special for the region and for UK plc.

"To be told as I was, that "business does not understand education" speaks loudly to me about the need for cultural change and reform right at the heart of our further education system.

"Otherwise people with ideas and dynamism will take their skills elsewhere and leave behind those many teachers and professionals in the system that want to push at the boundaries and make a world of difference to the lives of talented young people."

Industry heavyweight Mr Pendlington, who took on the role immediately after the land college's first failed Ofsted in 2017, said it had been "a non-stop roller coaster ride of events", with "many stomach-churning twists, turns, highs and lows".

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However, thanks to a "superb" team, the college could reflect on a job well done - having secured the future of land-based education in the region - and the Otley campus, which had faced an uncertain future, he revealed.

"It's no secret that the future of Otley was uncertain for a time. But for me, it was always a red line in the negotiations. Suffolk is a vibrant and achieving county, rooted in its rural economy, and to have no local base for land-based teaching would have been a very serious body blow for our county and economy.

"Thanks to hundreds of people and a vast number of organisations that rallied round to help, the successful merger with Suffolk New College was made possible."

MORE - Government snub to UEA-Easton and Otley merger bid comes under fire