‘No hiding from the truth’ for East & Otley College, says chair of governors

Mark Pendlington, chair of governors at Easton and Otley College. Picture: ANDY ABBOTT

Mark Pendlington, chair of governors at Easton and Otley College. Picture: ANDY ABBOTT - Credit: Archant

The damning findings of an Ofsted inspection earlier this year were “a real wake-up call” for an East Anglian land college, its new chair of governors has admitted.

An aerial view of the Otley campus.

An aerial view of the Otley campus. - Credit: Archant

Former New Anglia Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) chair Mark Pendlington, who took on his role at Easton and Otley College four months ago, said there were “no excuses, no hiding from the truth” about the contents of the report, which rated it inadequate.

“It sent the signal, loud and clear, that significant change was needed,” he said. But he added: “We set the pace, and proved that we were not afraid to take the tough decisions that are so essential for progress.”

A new senior leadership team had been put in place under the “excellent” acting principal Jane Townsend following the departure of former principal David Henley, and the college was actively seeking “an inspiring and innovative leader who can set pulses racing with new ideas, with an uncompromising approach to top quality education and to nurturing top talent”, he said.

The college had “quickly got stuck into the job of recovery”, he said, with a “robust” target-based plan for recovery, and now needed to take on a leading role in providing specialist skills, he added.

Jane Townsend with the Winter Stock competition winners.
Picture: CARL WHITMAN

Jane Townsend with the Winter Stock competition winners. Picture: CARL WHITMAN - Credit: Carl Whitman


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“Fresh from my experience as chair of the New Anglia LEP, I can see the potential for the college to lead and shape the future of land-based industries,” he said.

The focus of the college was on delivering top quality teaching, improving grades, shaping its curriculum to better suit the needs of employers, driving value for money and keeping finances in order and “winning and retaining the confidence of all our friends and allies across the region, so they can have faith in our ability to deliver progress at the pace and standard required”.

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The college was “thrilled and delighted” at the findings of an independent report of the views of local employers which rated it the best further education college to work with in East Anglia, and placed it second of all land-based colleges in the country, with an employer satisfaction survey rating of 96.4% for 2016-17 compared to a national average of 84.6%.

“We operate at the heart of one of the fastest growing economies in the country. Here in the east, food, drink and agriculture is by far the biggest sector and employs the most people. So it’s the job of the college to inspire, train and mentor the future leaders of this all-important industry,” said Mr Pendlington.

Geoffrey and Nella Probert, Mark Pendlington and Dan Webb. Picture: JOHN NICE

Geoffrey and Nella Probert, Mark Pendlington and Dan Webb. Picture: JOHN NICE - Credit: John Nice

The college recently launched a new apprenticeship training facility for vehicle maintenance engineers at its Otley campus, and the apprenticeship team launched a new free service called Connect at connect@eastonotley.ac.uk to make it easier for students and businesses to get independent advice on training needs.

Mr Pendlington highlighted recent student successes including a win for the college’s farming students at the recent national Winter Stock show at Peterborough, when they took top spot in an inter-college competition.

“The fact that our students can go head-to-head with some of the largest land-based establishments in the UK and come out on top speaks volumes about the quality of jobs and careers we are developing here, and the determination we all have – students and staff alike – to drive recovery and success,” he said.

The college was “special” and had big ambitions, he added, as he expressed his optimism for the college’s future.

“We will prove to parents, employers and students of the future that they can have full confidence in us providing the best possible start in life to those who see a bright and terrific future in this exciting industry,” he said.

“From applied natural sciences and farming to veterinary care; from horticulture to rural entrepreneurship, Easton and Otley is determined to lead the way and become a national exemplar of which everyone in our region – and beyond - can be very proud.”

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