Suffolk New College unveils five-year plan to improve standards and build stronger business links
- Credit: Archant
Details of the strategic plan, from 2015 to 2020, are exclusively revealed by this newspaper.
A greater emphasis on apprenticeships and work-related learning, broadening the curriculum, improving teaching and assessment and “diversifying” streams of income are at the heart of the plan.
Viv Gillespie, appointed as principal of the college last summer following Professor Dave Muller’s retirement, unveiled her “ambitious” goals in a presentation to around 100 distinguished guests who gathered yesterday morning for the launch of the plan at the college in Rope Walk, Ipswich.
The launch comes after the latest Ofsted report, carried out in November and published last month, rated the college as ‘requires improvement’.
Broken down, six of the eight categories, including leadership and teaching, received that mark, but personal development and apprenticeships were judged as ‘good’.
Mrs Gillespie said: “This strategic plan outlines ambitious goals for the next five years and Suffolk New College is in an excellent position to achieve these business objectives.
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“Greater Ipswich is an area of growth and is predicted to continue to increase its population and economy. The college has many opportunities to support this and the key areas for development are articulated in this strategic plan.
“The areas of development reflect the needs of local industry and commerce and also support the Local Enterprise Partnership’s agenda.”
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During her speech, she said the college is “operating in changing and challenging times” and admitted the educational institute is “not immune” to public sector funding cuts.
But she insisted that through the use of better technology and diversifying streams of income, the college will improve its efficiency, while becoming more innovative and entrepreneurial and improving the standard of teaching.
She said apprenticeships and traineeships represent a key area of growth and explained a renewed focus STEM (science, technology, engineering and maths) training and skills will improve student attainment.
Speaking to this newspaper afterwards, she said it was a case of “evolution, not revolution”.
“The college is always evolving and plays an important role in education and the workforce of the future,” she added.
The plan states it will “ensure the college continues to develop strong links with businesses and organisations in the Greater Ipswich area and beyond”.
It adds: “Employers will become partners in developing new areas of training and study for 16-19-year-olds, ensuring students leave college with the skills and attributes required by local industry.
“A range of programmes for community learning that utilise the College’s facilities will also be created under the plan.”
Roger Fern, chair of corporation at the college, said: “We are learning from the past and building for the future.
“The overall judgement (of the latest Ofsted report) was disappointing but personal development and apprentices were judged to be good, meaning that this is a really good place to study.
“But we need to make sure teaching is as good as we can possibly make it, and under this five-year plan, teaching will improve and leave a splendid legacy.”
Richard Lister, provost of University Campus Suffolk (UCS), backed the college to help Ipswich capitalise on a period of “significant growth”.
He said: “Every five-year period is critical. We have a changing education system. It’s a plan which is critical to the college but it is also critical to the next five years of education in Ipswich.
“Ipswich is on the verge of significant change, significant growth and a boom, and this growth needs to be underpinned by a high level of skills. The college provides that and will certainly provide that in the future.
“The town is perfectly positioned to take advantage of an economic upturn. The town is in the right place and has the right infrastructure to capitalise on that growth.
“We now need to make sure our young people have the right skills so that when the jobs come in, and the number of jobs is going to grow, it is local people getting them, and we don’t need to import.”
Mr Lister described the five-year strategic plan as “pragmatic” and insisted it will meet the needs of the Ipswich area.
He said: “The way it describes the way it will deliver outcomes through partners is absolutely the way forward. The presentation made several references to how working with partners will deliver shared outcomes to improve Ipswich and surrounding areas.
“We are proud to have Suffolk New College as a higher education partner and we are looking forward to continuing working with them. There is a hand-in-glove working relationship.
“It is a really good plan and I expect the college will reach further out to other groups and draw them in to the college and provide new routes to new degrees.”
Mak Islam, president of the students’ union at Suffolk New College, explained how inspirational teachers changed his life when he was an A-level student at the college and backed the five-year plan to deliver a ‘good’ or ‘outstanding’ Ofsted rating.
He said: “I was at sixth form previously and not really engaged, but the standard of education I received at the college was amazing. The teachers weren’t really like teachers; they were like close friends. They taught me so much and opened my eyes to the world. They helped me grow up.
“So my message to those thinking of coming to the college is to pick a career that you want, and don’t tie yourself to something your friends are doing, and you can do that here at the college.
“There are loads of work placements and work experience schemes and the five-year plan which the college has announced will improve that. There will be many opportunities provided to students, and there will be many jobs they will be able to apply for when they graduate.
“We have got a strong reputation and that reputation is going to keep going up, and I am sure we will get a good or outstanding Ofsted in the near future.”