12 November 2018

The college, which has sites in both Norfolk and Suffolk, was inspected with short notice in early October, and was judged to be ‘inadequate’. The rating follows an inspection last year, at which the college was first listed in the lowest category.

In the last 12 months, management and board members have begun defining a new business plan for the organisation, and have introduced a new pool of highly skilled educational staff to drive the college forward.

Ms Townsend, who was appointed in March this year, says she is enormously disappointed with the report outcomes, but recognises that a number of positive features were recognised by the inspectors.

She believes the visit by the educational audit body simply came ‘too soon’ to allow for the level of positive change to have had significant impact since the previous inspection.

“I cannot hide my disappointment at this assessment, but I am so very pleased to see that the report does at the same time highlight some areas in which substantial change has already been made.

“Since our 2017 inspection, we have clearly been able to evidence to Ofsted some great enhancements around apprenticeships, and around students with ‘high needs’, as both these areas were deemed to be worthy of a ‘good’ rating.”

She added: “There is no denying that it has been a challenging 12 months for the College, in which our students witnessed a lot of change in staffing and strategy.

“It has meant that this inspection comes a little too soon to truly capture the improvements we have been making, or to feel the full positive impact of the body of new senior management which are now in place and working tirelessly to drive us forward as an exceptional educational organisation in the East of England.

” Mark Pendlington, Chair of Easton and Otley College since August 2017, echoes Ms Townsend’s frustration at the timing of the inspection, but emphasises that there has been a significant shift in momentum and energy across the two campuses, with students and staff both excited for the future.

“We are at early days in a very dynamic phase for Easton and Otley, and the Board and I are absolutely committed to making this a College which is relevant, respected, and very much a proud reflection of the region’s agricultural heritage – albeit in a demanding modern world.

“In the last year we’ve seen major changes to staffing and budgets, which were not at all comfortable, but here we are at the close of 2018, with well over 250 courses, some phenomenal business partnerships in place, a wealth of professional expertise through our staff and our board, and a culture of people across the campuses wanting to shout proudly about what’s being achieved here.”

He added: “I came in to the role knowing this would continue to be a challenging time in the aftermath of the original inspection, but always confident that we would create an educational establishment in the East of England which is so respected as a place to develop the right skills for working in, and managing, land related businesses.

“This remains on course to be the kind of institution which is a hub for rural economy talent and which makes more and more students want to have their learning years with us, rather than going outside of our region.”