Farming opinion: Easton and Otley College principal reflects on what’s been learned after shock Ofsted

Easton and Otley College principal Jane Townsend Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN

Easton and Otley College principal Jane Townsend Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN - Credit: Archant

Easton and Otley College principal and chief executive Jane Townsend gives her insights into what has happened as the team reflects on its second ‘inadequate’ rating

Easton and Otley College principal Jane Townsend Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN

Easton and Otley College principal Jane Townsend Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN - Credit: Archant

There’s no getting away from the fact that this has been a really very challenging and unsettled period for Easton and Otley College.

In the last 12 months we’ve seen significant change in terms of our staffing, management, and wider strategy, so perhaps we were rather more optimistic in hoping that before this latest inspection, we would have been able to evidence more significant improvement.

As principal and CEO, I know that myself and the board, together with all my senior leadership team, are hugely determined and ambitious about our plans for Easton and Otley as an exemplary land-based learning hub, but what we’re increasingly appreciating, is that after such upheaval, we can only turn the tide at a steady and sustainable pace.

At a time of a disappointing external assessment, such as this latest one has been, of course, there is a huge and valuable opportunity to reflect and to explore both our weaknesses and our evident strengths.

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What we’ve noted very clearly from the report is that the inspectors are confident we have the right leadership team to take the college forward, and also that they are extremely impressed by the way in which we deliver our apprenticeship programmes, in particular.

This, in no small part, is a result of our deep and sustained relationships with businesses and organisations throughout East Anglia.

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It is through this inspection process that perhaps we have been reminded even more, of the respect and support that business leaders and regional influencers have for the college and all that it achieves in raising the level of attainment for people keen on land-based careers.

At the same time, we have seen that support confirmed from across our parent and student community. My inbox has been overwhelmed by positive messages in recent days, highlighting the recognition that we are on a ‘steady journey’ to achieve our greater goals.

Another area of focus from the inspectors has been praise for our High Needs delivery. I for one am more conscious post-report of what a hugely impressive beacon of success our work in this aspect is.

We are truly making a very important difference to the lives of those who may otherwise have felt ill catered for in education or professional pathways.

Without doubt, we are saddened and disappointed that the assessment repeated the inadequate status for a second time.

We may have been somewhat naïve as to the level of impact the financial restructuring would have had on the college for this latest period.

As we reflect and reconsider, I know we go forward with the same level of determination and commitment, but with more appetite than ever to ensure that what we implement is done at the right pace, in the right way, to give us the kind of land-based institution of which we all want to be proud in the East of England.

I have every confidence that the team we have built, and the support which exists around us, will see us emerge stronger and more successful than ever.

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