World Class…

The phrase ‘world class’ is rather overused at the moment – mainly thanks to sporting endeavours.

It’s often mentioned when describing footballers.

Without getting overly political, if footballers were defined by the wages they get, then without doubt, pretty much every single player in the Premiership is world class.

But in terms of performance – well that’s another story.

I don’t doubt that every single footballer or business (or in our case educational establishment), aspires to be genuinely world class. And there is absolutely nothing wrong with that.

If you don’t get out of bed and want to make a positive difference on any kind of basis, then what’s the point in getting up?

So, as far as Easton and Otley College goes – our mission is to strive for greatness and although I wouldn’t claim to being world class at the minute – that’s the overall aim.

To help demonstrate this, the EADT is running a series of features on us entitled World Class Week.

It’s looking at what the college does, how we do it and why people should consider studying or working with us.

By talking about some of our student successes, industry links and by looking at some of the ways in which our learners progress from education to employment, the articles are trying to highlight our genuine world class desires.

It’s been a great opportunity for me to chat to colleagues at both our campuses and feel their passion for the subjects that they teach, interspersed with genuine tales of learners who have gone on to great things in their careers, post education.

Have a read of the articles if you get the chance.

But of course, we can’t do anything without the support of the local community.

I’ve stated it on many occasions that this community and the many individuals and businesses that live and work in this region – have been tremendously supportive over the years – and we thank you for that.

Unless you are the exception to the rule – (possibly Lionel Messi) you can’t get anywhere in life without the support of others.

So by continuing to work together, collectively, we can all strive to become world class, with or without the Premiership wages.

(Finally, The Otley campus is staging our Big Day Out on Saturday 11 May 2013. The free family fun day starts at 10am and finishes at 4pm – it would be great to see you).


Guilty Secrets

Everyone has a guilty secret when it comes to popular culture.

Whether that means knowing all the words to a cheesy pop song or regularly watching a truly terrible reality show, it’s fair to say that all of us are guilty as charged when it comes to sneakily liking something we really know we shouldn’t.

One of the population’s biggest guilty secrets has to be Britain’s Got Talent (BGT).

It showcases the talented – and not so talented – dance troupes, singers and entertainers who are currently living in the UK – (allegedly) for our entertainment.

Well what has this got to do with Easton and Otley College?

Aside from having former students audition for the show, we actually welcomed a (genuine) star to our college from the BGT series last Thursday.

The musician Sam Kelly was that star and he got to the final in 2012.

In the week when the 2013 series began, he came along to congratulate the latest group of Prince’s Trust students who successfully graduated from their course.

The 14 students – as part of their course – raised £1903 for the East Anglian Children’s Hospice (EACH).

With the money, they improved parts of the external garden area and created a Mexican themed barbecue area for children and their families to enjoy.

The learners (like Sam) showed genuine talent – and we will be supporting them as they negotiate their next educational or career moves.

That aside, although both of our campuses have been quite quiet because of holidays, work behind the scenes continues as we enter our busy events season.

The Big Day Out (at Otley) is less than a month away and all systems are go for this free family fun day that takes place between 10am and 4pm on Saturday 11 May 2013.

The themes for the Norfolk and Suffolk Show have been decided and we are looking forward to attending the Sundown festival at the Norfolk showground later in the year.

At all of these events, we will be showcasing all of the opportunities that our college has to offer.

But if you can’t wait for those events, we have a careers event at the Otley campus this Saturday (20 April) between 9am and 1pm. (You don’t have to book – just come along and have a tour or chat to tutors).

Please do tell us about your talents – I guarantee they will be far more robust than some of the offerings we are yet to see on BGT.

Noise Launchers

So last time out I mentioned that I was about to head off to South Africa for a visit.
South Africa –of course – made the vuvuzela famous at the football World Cup in 2010.

And my youngest nephew (who is three) was given one as a present on my return.

He was unable to say the word vuvuzela so invented his own word for said instrument and called it a noise launcher – I thought I would share that – I think I actually prefer his description.

Whilst I was away in temperatures that can best be described as being more favourable than here, Easton and Otley continued to press ahead with their landbased mission.

At the Easton campus, we welcomed thousands of visitors to a ‘lambing weekend’ with many lambs being born over the two day family affair.

Landbased activities aside, we have also been doing our bit for charities recently.

At Otley, our Prince’s Trust students continue to help the East Anglian Children’s Hospice and have raised well over £1000.00 for the Ipswich based benevolent cause.

Continuing a charity tip – both campuses came up with novel ways of raising money for Comic Relief – the Otley campus made a papier-mache nose, put presents in said contraption and people paid to pick a prize out of the giant red contraption.
(Other activities included a coffee morning and a lunch time disco).

At the Easton campus, we had a competition to see who could cycle a mile in the quickest time for this national charity.

Easton sports students also travelled the equivalent distance from London to Lille by running, swimming and cycling on gym equipment to raise money for Help for Heroes last week.

The same group will also be taking on the Three Peaks Challenge (for charity) later in the year.
Back at the Otley campus, we have just confirmed that we will be supporting the East Anglian Air Ambulance at our annual Big Day Out event that is taking place on Saturday 11 May 2013.

The event is taking place between 10am and 4pm – last year we were affected by the weather somewhat – but we normally 4 to 5000 visitors come along to our free family fun day.

If you are a business or individual who would like to get involved or come along, you can call our organiser – Annest Hopkins on 01473 784276 or email

Feel free to bring a vuvuzela or noise launcher along.


I heard a term recently called ‘sofarisation’ – basically, it means that you don’t have to leave your sofa any more to lead your life, shop, talk, tweet or text.

Whilst in many ways this is progression of sorts, it hardly encourages the hands on get up and go culture that I was brought up with.

Of course ‘sofarisation’ is just a silly word that represents a small part of our society. The vast majority of people and businesses are still approaching life with gusto – many such people with this mindset study apprenticeships with us.

Two weeks ago we celebrated Apprenticeships via a week long look at the sorts of benefits that can be made for businesses and individuals via this educational route.

We have taught thousands of students at both of our campuses on this pathway and the government still seems keen to support this method of training.

It isn’t always fairly depicted though. I’ve been watching the American series of The Apprentice with Donald Trump.

It was the forerunner for the UK series involving Alan Sugar and it still amazes me how contestants think that they have to back-stab and blah their way to succeed.

Speaking to the Apprentices that we support, I’m yet to meet anyone who carries on in this fashion when attempting to reach their goal of employment or a career in industry.

In fact it’s the complete opposite – chatting to two trainee chefs at the excellent Yeo group owned Alex Brasserie in Felixstowe recently – I was struck by their passion to get to the top of a highly competitive industry – and I believe that they will get there thanks to the support of the college and the company where they are working.

Another former Apprentice – Anna Pickwell is based in Wymondham – she set up her own floristry business that is soon to be renamed Ragged Robin.

Her passion and sincerity shone through and put to shame some of the behaviour that you see on these unnecessarily cutthroat TV shows that are more pure entertainment as opposed to showcasing genuine enterprising qualities.

We have long standing relationships with some of the companies that we work with via Apprenticeships – but we are always keen to speak to new contacts to discuss how we can mutually help each other.

For details, you can call Louise Ling on 01473 784177 or email
Call us or come and se us. Or like sofarisation, you can also get in touch from the comfort of your sofa.

Everyone Wins

I hate it when people loudly announce to the bank teller that they require foreign currency for a holiday abroad.

How smug they are as they unload a stream of facts about their soon-to-be enjoyed experience of a lifetime.

I of course only muttered very quietly that I required a couple of hundred pounds worth of Rand for my visit to South Africa.

I guess it’s difficult not being smug after all.

In fact, all being well, I’ll be in Cape Town right now.

As it turns out, some of our UCS Otley campus students have just got back from South Africa themselves having experienced a Safari study tour.

Lucky them!

I’m sure they were inspired by what they saw.

As was I recently, when I visited the East Anglian Children’s Hospice (EACH) in Ipswich.

Some of our Prince’s Trust students recently raised over £1000 for them. They are using the money to create a Mexican-style barbecue area for children and their families to use at this inspiringly excellent charity.

The local community chipped in to support this with a special mention required to F Masters Ltd in Woodbridge.

Generally, I am always pleasantly surprised by the support we get from a range of organisations.
That said, both the Otley and Easton campuses always try and help out others when approached.
Especially if the student experience is enhanced…

We’re meeting up with a local cider giant soon, to hopefully kick-start a couple of environmental projects.

Potentially, both organisations involved will benefit, but most importantly, our students will get something useful from the project.

Everyone wins – unfortunately life doesn’t always happen that way – how good would it be if it did – but it’s certainly something worth aspiring towards – even if the wins are either small or large.

140 characters

Conversation appears to be dying. People seem to prefer to email as opposed to picking up the phone. Twitter appears to be the new text message as social media takes its grip.

Meeting people face to face seems to have been replaced by Facebook – oh the irony!

(Why is it called social media by the way, when it appears to be the exact opposite of the word social?).

However, although I’m the most backward person in coming forwards to new technology, Twitter works for me – and crucially – it’s becoming more and more influential in relation to business.

I’m definitely a convert – as Ricky Gervais says – you have the whole of humanity in your pocket.

Of course like everything – it’s both good and bad – but also like everything – the good outweighs the bad.

Checking the most recent Otley College campus posts on Twitter, we have seen staff and students raise money for AGE UK in Suffolk, put out weather reports, helped Ipswich hospital, given a birthday cake to the Olympic boxer Anthony Ogogo and helped re-house a praying mantis in a link up with Adnams.

We have over 1000 followers on our account @OtleyCollege and you can follow us to see what’s going on.

You can also follow us at our Easton College campus – @easton_college – checking posts from our account here, the girl’s football team played the Chelsea academy (unluckily losing 3-2), we celebrated Chinese New Year, posted job opportunities and offered training opportunities via our partnership with CCA Landskills.

Hopefully you and your business will become the next post on our feeds / accounts / whatever you want to call it.

That aside, we are looking forward to National Apprenticeship Week in March.

In preparation for that, I spoke to a 24 year old Easton apprentice who is celebrating her first year in charge of her own shop called Jasmine in Wymondham (@JasmineFlorist1) and I caught up with one of our most successful ever apprentices from the Otley Campus – Tom Parkhurst – @ThornhamShoes – who did a qualification himself and has just taken on his twentieth Apprentice – well done sir!

So back to Twitter – I like the fact that you only have 140 characters to say what you want to say.

If that was the case for every person in every meeting in every workplace in the world, meetings would be twice as quick – that might be a good thing – Twitter is the new way forward then – @OtleyCollege ……

I’m on the train!!

One of my pet hates is people talking loudly on the phone whilst on trains.

Lo and behold, I was faced with that situation when my phone rang last Friday and I had to take the call.
It was a rubbish line so I had to talk loudly to get my point of view across whilst sorting out an interview for a local radio station.

I became the person that I dislike the most and it didn’t feel pleasant.

Another pet hate is when people make judgements without substance.

Speaking with a chap about London recently, they stated that they didn’t like it (London) because it was full of ‘dodgy people’ (whatever that meant) in comparison with East Anglia.

‘Have you been to London much’ I asked.

‘Not really’ was the response.

Statistically, London has probably got equally as many bad or good people in comparison with East Anglia or anywhere else of course – but in this case, a pre judgement had been made and this often happens in life and business and education.

Everyone always thinks that the Otley campus is full of people driving tractors whilst chewing on straw as there is a pre-conception that we are a farming college.

This is quite ironic as in the past we have made a point of highlighting how we have diversified as an institution.

Today though as Easton and Otley College, covering both Suffolk and Norfolk – one of our missions is to re-establish our agricultural roots by encouraging more people to seek training in farming, horticulture, equine and a whole range of land-based subjects.

That’s because we are being told that these industries need new recruits.

Landbased subjects aside, we still support a variety of other course areas for people of all ages at both campuses.

In terms of the Otley campus, we offer tours for nursery schools, teach 14 to 16 year olds practical skills, offer A-level equivalent options and foundation degrees.

You can find out more about these options at our open days.

If you have never been to Otley, come and have a look around. Come along to our community open day in the diary. It’s called “The Big Day Out” and takes place on Sat 11 May 2013.

I’ll also be there at the open day in May– come and talk to me – that said, I’ll probably be on a train somewhere talking loudly on the phone.