Industry leaders back college’s turnaround plan after ‘inadequate’ Ofsted shock

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

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

Following Easton and Otley College's second successive 'inadequate' Ofsted rating, farming industry leaders gave their support to the turnaround plan, and underlined the importance of improving land-based learning in East Anglia.

• Greg Smith, chief executive of the Royal Norfolk Agricultural Association, said: 'The Royal Norfolk Agricultural Association continues to stand squarely behind the college and its leadership team, while acknowledging they have been in a difficult position in recent times, and that there is much work still to do.

'Over the last year, we have noticed a very positive change in the way in which the college has been tackling the challenges ahead.

'As an agricultural association, we understand the importance of a strong, thriving and independent land-based education provider in the region, and we regard Easton and Otley as that institution.

'We will continue to work very hard on the behalf of the College, to maintain the momentum of change and achieve what is required for the industry, and for the betterment of the industry and the young people in this region. They have our unequivocal support.'

READ MORE: College committed to turnaround vision despite second 'inadequate' judgement• Ben Underwood, East regional director for the Country Land and Business Association, said: 'The CLA is fully behind the renewed focus and objectives at Easton and Otley College. Agriculture and land-based businesses are facing a period of significant change.

'For the agricultural sector to prosper, become more productive and harness new opportunities a good supply of well trained, highly skilled and motivated staff is absolutely fundamental.

'Easton and Otley are focused on fulfilling this role and the whole industry needs to get behind them to ensure the skills supply matches the demands of the industry.'

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• Dr Belinda Clarke, director of Agri-Tech East, said: 'The stakeholder support for Easton and Otley College must not be under-estimated. It is recognised that it provides a critical artery to the businesses and skills needed to prepare the region, and the wider UK for the agriculture of the 21st century.

'The significant changes implemented by the leadership team are already making a big difference and we look forward to working with the college as it continues on its journey of improvement.'

• Andrew Blenkiron, estate director at the Euston Estate, near Thetford, said: 'Over recent years Euston Farms have worked closely with Easton and Otley, taking students from a number of their courses, hosting student visits as well as visiting the college to pass on some of our knowledge and experience.

'We are delighted to support the college, and the team's vision for the future promises to deliver what we need on our farm and our wider rural business. I know that a number of other farmers are keen to ensure that Easton and Otley continues to provide an education to our future workforce.'

• Charles Whitaker, managing partner at agricultural business consultancy Brown and Co in Norwich, said: 'The Ofsted report's conclusion was obviously disappointing, however the new regime has hardly had time to find its feet and breathe so I think we all, as users of the facility and those who wish to see it succeed, should give them some slack from that point of view.

'For the bigger picture, to have a further education establishment that can take 16 and 18-year-olds and make them 'farm-ready' is absolutely crucial.

'We have to make it work because in this region in particular, with its reliance on agriculture, and looking more positively on Brexit and the opportunities we might have to promote ag-tech and ag-production and adding value, we need a stream of people who see that as exciting and inspirational and interesting.

'We as an industry have got to engage with it, we cannot just sit down and complain about it. It falls to all of us.

'We can put some pressure on farms, in a nice way, to say we want to support Easton and we need to provide a route to market for these students, so please help us to do that in terms of providing apprentcieships placements, etc, because we need that next generation of staff.'