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Farming opinion: Chair of governors asks what now for Easton and Otley College in wake of shock Ofsted

PUBLISHED: 12:01 18 November 2018

Chair of governors at Easton and Otley College,  Mark Pendlington  Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN

Chair of governors at Easton and Otley College, Mark Pendlington Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN

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Chair of the board of governors at Easton and Otley College, Mark Pendlington, reflects on what will be needed to steer the college forward after its shock Ofsted rating

Chair of governors at Easton and Otley College,  Mark Pendlington  Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWNChair of governors at Easton and Otley College, Mark Pendlington Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN

There are times in any organisation when focus and determination need to cut through the noise; and the expectations of all those who depend upon it have to be met, in full.

This is one such moment for Easton and Otley College and the more than 4,000 students who we teach, inspire and equip for some of the best and most exciting jobs and careers in our region – and beyond. Food, drink and agriculture is the biggest industry in our region, and its largest employer, and it depends on us to help it thrive and succeed.

Which is why a little over a year ago, with the fortunes of the college at a particularly low ebb, the board invited me to take over as chair. I had no hesitation in joining the team, to help get to grips with the big and fundamental challenges.

The job of turnaround began immediately. Not just to return the college to business as usual, but to set a whole new direction. To anticipate and provide the talent and resources the land-based sector will need to compete, grow and thrive in a post Brexit world. A world where skills in science, technology and innovation will be as essential and highly prized as the more traditional skills.

There is a place at Easton and Otley for students of all talents, abilities and ambitions.

Which is why we have spent the last year, under the outstanding leadership of principal Jane Townsend, getting the college fit for purpose. We have secured our finances for the long term; a new senior leadership team has been recruited; and we have a three-year business plan that will future-proof our modern 21st Century land-based industry.

Our rapid progress in recent months has been recognised by our government regulators. But we believe that the recent Ofsted Inspection came too soon to allow this progress to be properly recognised with a higher grade assessment.

So we take from this a clear call to action: to continue to transform the quality of teaching and learning.

Having spent over 30 years in business, many of those in industries facing big reputational or financial challenges, my experience tells me that Easton and Otley is on the right trajectory for recovery and growth. We have the expertise, the plan and the investment available to deliver on our promises, and to give all our students – including those wishing to join us next year – the best possible start in life. We are not in the business of letting anyone down.

And in recent days, we have been reminded of the really amazing support we have from across the region. Including from MPs, and the leaders of business, community organisations, local government and land-based specialists. Most important of all, has been the spontaneous support received from parents, students and staff, for which we are so very grateful.

So this is not the time to rush to judgement. It’s time to knuckle down and earn the continued confidence and support of all those on whom we depend.

We must continue to earn their trust too – in particular that of our students who are with us every day, working hard, and who deserve the very best start in life, in one of the most exciting and dynamic industries of the future.

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