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Bid to grow apprenticeship courses at Suffolk college

PUBLISHED: 06:37 18 July 2019 | UPDATED: 09:23 18 July 2019

Central Suffolk and North Ipswich MP Dan Poulter, Viv Gillespie and Jane Townsend discussing the new partnership at the Otley campus  Picture: JOHN NICE

Central Suffolk and North Ipswich MP Dan Poulter, Viv Gillespie and Jane Townsend discussing the new partnership at the Otley campus Picture: JOHN NICE

John Nice

The further education college set to take over the running of Suffolk's land-based education has pledged to boost provision with a raft of commitments.

Suffolk New College and Easton and Otley College principals Viv Gillespie and Jane Townsend at a recent family fun day at Otley  Picture: JOHN NICESuffolk New College and Easton and Otley College principals Viv Gillespie and Jane Townsend at a recent family fun day at Otley Picture: JOHN NICE

Suffolk New College is due to incorporate the Otley campus of Easton and Otley College after it was forced to split following two damning Ofsted reports.

Meanwhile, Easton campus in Norfolk is set to come under the wing of City College in Norwich when the college is de-merged, with the planned new mergers timetabled for the calendar end of 2019.

MORE - Easton and Otley to be carved up after damning Ofsted inspections

The Otley campus will become the third base for Suffolk New College - which has its main operations in Ipswich but expanded last year with the launch of a site in Leiston - bringing students numbers to more than 5,000.

Suffolk New College principal Viv Gillespie, who will be working closely with her counterpart at City College Norwich to plan the future of land-based training across the two counties, said they had "ambitious" plans for the region.

"By joining forces with Otley we want to create a high quality college for Suffolk and the region as a whole," she said. "We believe that we will create a new legacy for land-based education - and education in general."

She added that she had a "real connection" to land-based education, having worked in colleges with this provision for nearly 10 years.

"I am passionate about making sure that Otley continues to fly the flag for farming and all of the other associated programmes relating to the land," she said.

Specific land-based plans include the creation of a new food centre and the development of science-based provision in food, science and agritech courses.

There will also be "a renewed focus" on agriculture, arboriculture, horticulture and horticultural machinery. Rural crafts will also expand via a leisure learning programme, Suffolk New College said.

However, a small number of horticulture students studying at Otley will have to relocate to the Easton campus in September 2019, before the mergers take place.

Easton and Otley College said the decision was made "purely on low student numbers", and as part of 2019/20 curriculum business planning process. Year 2, Level 3 horticulture students have been contacted and, with parents, invited to meet with the department manager and visit the Easton campus.

All students have been offered free accommodation at the Easton Campus to ensure they can complete their programme of study, Easton and Otley said.

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Suffolk New College said it has a track record of offering 'real life' working experiences to students to help them in their future careers, and aimed to replicate this at Otley by developing commercial activities to provide 'real life' working environments for students.

Its current programmes include Shelley's restaurant at the Ipswich campus where hospitality and catering students can develop skills, and college-run beauty parlour The Zone where health and beauty students can hone their talents.

"We want everyone who studies with is to have an exceptional experience that allows them to progress," said Mrs Gillespie. "The best way to develop is by giving learners real life experiences that will make the transition to further study or employment as seamless as possible."

All non land-based courses will be supported, with a specific focus on growth in apprenticeships, construction and motor vehicle/HGV, she said, and outdoor sport provision will also be "considered".

Suffolk New College said it is keen to support local and regional priorities of New Anglia Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) by providing training in energy and other key sectors, but also wanted to work with other educational partners, stakeholders and supporters to build new partnerships.

Easton and Otley College principal Jane Townsend said it was "an exciting time", and the collaborative approach would create an "exciting and powerful educational legacy".

"I think the development of a food centre at Otley will help reinforce our commitment to continue to support farming and the food chain," she said.

Central Suffolk and North Ipswich MP Dan Poulter said: "It's absolutely essential that we continue to have a land-based college in this region and it's vital that we can continue to provide this specialist education for our talented young people, who will gain the skills they need to go on and support not only this sector, but also Suffolk's thriving economy."

As a regular visitor to the Otley campus, he was impressed with the range of opportunities available and "the positive impact that it has on so many lives".

"It goes without saying that I shall continue to support and champion Otley when it teams up with Suffolk New College to create a new super college for Suffolk."

Suffolk Chamber of Commerce chief executive John Dugmore said the partnering of Otley with Suffolk New College was "a cause for optimism".

"This is good news all round for Suffolk. A strong and successful land-based college in the county is essential to ensuring the future growth of and skills pipeline for a number of our key sectors, including agritech, food manufacturing and horticulture," he said.

"Suffolk Chamber looks forward to working with the new partnership to further develop the close working relationship between the colleges and local businesses."

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