Revamped courses and stronger industry links can restore Easton College’s potential

City College Norwich principal Corrienne Peasgood says progress is being made on the turnaround plan

City College Norwich principal Corrienne Peasgood says progress is being made on the turnaround plan for Easton College. Picture: Nick Butcher - Credit: Nick Butcher

At the start of this year, Easton College was merged with City College Norwich (CCN) in a bid to revive rural education standards after two inadequate Ofsted ratings. Six months on, CCN principal CORRIENNE PEASGOOD says progress is already being made despite the challenges of Covid-19.

This time last year we were consulting on the future of Easton and Otley College, a process which culminated in Easton College joining City College Norwich on January 1.

The Royal Norfolk Show provided an opportunity to hear from stakeholders on their priorities for the college. I remember leaving the showground reflecting, firstly, on the immense potential of Easton to become a leading college for land-based skills, and, secondly, on the strong desire within the farming community to support the college and be part of its turnaround.

The last year has flown by. Naturally a lot of time and energy has gone into supporting our students and apprentices through the Covid-19 disruption. Despite this, important changes have already been made, or are underway, that will underpin real improvements for students, apprentices and employers.

People are any college’s most important resource. We have made some excellent appointments in key areas, ensuring we have the people in post who will make a real difference for our students and employer partners.

The staff at Easton College have responded positively to the opportunity for change and a fresh start. It has been brilliant to see colleagues from our Easton, Paston and Norwich sites developing strong working relationships so quickly.

READ MORE: ‘New era’ for troubled college as merger is confirmed

We have been looking at our external relationships too, at how we can work more effectively with partners for the benefit of students, the land-based sector, and our local community. A number of key developments have given our focus on these industry links added impetus.

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For our 16-19 year old students, we are planning for the introduction of the new T Level qualifications. This is a key opportunity for ensuring our courses truly reflect the skills needed by the sector, which will be reinforced by a much greater amount of work experience than in the past.

We have also strengthened the pathways for our animal studies students, adding a new wildlife pathway, and essentially making sure that all our students’ learning is more closely aligned to the career direction they are seeking to take.

Our apprenticeships in agriculture, land-based engineering and veterinary nursing are also being revamped, to reflect employers’ priorities even more closely, as we complete the move from frameworks to the new standards.

At Higher Education level, we are working on the re-validation of the college’s agriculture degree. We are working closely with employers, and our university partner, UEA, to ensure the programme really meets the sector’s skills needs, now and in the future.

READ MORE: Cattle champions thrilled to win Royal Norfolk Show rosettes at college’s virtual competition

Similarly, we are reviewing our equine degree – both to make sure it reflects the employment opportunities in the sector and to ensure we make the most of our fantastic equestrian centre. For our sports degrees, we are looking at how we can combine the best of what each college has to offer (including the tennis centre at Easton and our human performance lab in Norwich) to give a compelling option for sports students to study with us.

Employers are central to our ambition to make Easton College a leading agricultural college for the region. This involvement needs to go deeper than offering work placements or apprenticeships or advising us on course content.

It is about regular, ongoing engagement that is of mutual benefit to the industry and our students. We want to work with you to create many more opportunities for students to work and learn alongside employers, whether on your farm or premises, or at the college.

Where there are opportunities for students and farmers to share in learning and development, we want to facilitate that – for example through joint participation in the British Cattle Conference, which we are working on.

All in all, it has been an eventful and busy first six months. As we get back to normal operations, we will be reaching out even more to the agricultural sector to invite you to work with us in helping Easton College to realise its incredible potential.