When Corrie Harris took over the ambitious role of principal at Moulton College in the summer of 2019, she was in no doubt about the size of the task ahead of her.
Two Grade 4 Ofsted reports had unearthed failings within what has always been considered one of the area’s leading education providers, but Corrie was confident that with a fresh approach, a new management team and a renewed focus on the student experience, a turnaround would only be a matter of time.
By the time COVID-19 struck, the college was already implementing significant change to ensure that the students were given access to great teaching and learning in order for them to achieve their full potential. However, in common with most organisations, COVID-19 added a whole new set of barriers to overcome.
Despite nearly a year of disruption and uncertainty for staff and students alike, Corrie is already proud to see evidence that her new vision is taking shape.
“My first six months at Moulton College were incredible and I realised that despite the situation, we had fabulous students, a committed staff team and fantastic facilities that meant we could deliver and achieve excellent results,” said Corrie. “The staff knew that it was going to be challenging, but together we set about implementing the changes that were needed and were ultimately going to benefit the students.
“The students are the most important thing to us. When students aren’t happy, numbers decline and that in turn leads to a loss of income, which, when I took over, had reached a critical level.
“Adding coronavirus into the mix wasn’t exactly ideal, but my role was to provide leadership, manage the pace of change and give the college a really stable financial future. I am delighted to report that this has now happened. Student achievement results are high, and enrolment numbers increased by 20% last September – this is down to the hard work of the whole Moulton College team. We all pull in the same direction and the college has a real family feel to it.”
Moulton College is a land-based college with a long history. Celebrating its centenary this year, the college specialises in training young people and adults in skills associated with the natural, built and recreational environment. The curriculum includes land-based and agricultural courses; construction skills; animal welfare and equine courses; food and drink courses; business studies and sports-based courses.
The college has released its vision for the future within a new Strategic Plan which includes the key ambitions for several years going forward:
- To retain and enhance its proud tradition as an excellent provider of land-based education with a strong complementary curriculum
- To work towards making the college carbon neutral, playing its part in tackling the environmental challenges our society faces.
- To make it recognised as a fantastic place to work and develop in a safe and secure environment which promotes personal wellbeing and ambition.
- To deliver a curriculum, education and training that meets current and future needs and facilitates progression for students into employment
It’s very much a student-first approach at Moulton College and the mission remains to provide high-quality education and skills development leading to talented, committed industry-focused and career-ready students.
Teaching has continued full-time throughout the first term of this academic year despite the difficult circumstances. With its extensive campus and robust health and safety measures, the college was able to welcome students back to full-time teaching on site, invaluable to ensuring that students could get the best possible experience.
“We have a niche offering at Moulton College, but there are fundamentals that apply to any college or educational establishment. You have to get those right, or the rest doesn’t matter,” said Corrie. “Making sure the practical side of the course was tackled when students were allowed into college and giving them access to the specialist equipment and facilities meant that they were not disadvantaged due to the pandemic.
“The growth in student numbers last September is being continued into this year’s recruitment campaign. We are currently 50% ahead on applications compared to the same time last year and we’re offering places now so that we can give those students the certainty they need about their next steps.
“As well as giving our students the best possible experience we also need to get our curriculum right to give them the best opportunity, and to serve local employers and the community. We are planning a business hub on site so that we can support employers, particularly those in agriculture who are facing issues post-Brexit, to ensure they get the skilled workers they need. Food and drink is an incredibly important sector for this county and we need to ensure our Food and Drink Centre is delivering the skills the region needs.
“Furthermore, we want to help students of all ages. The Government has announced a new enhanced Level 3 entitlement for adults who, because of the pandemic, find themselves having to retrain or look at new career opportunities. Moulton College wants to be at the forefront of any new initiatives so that we can support people back into jobs.
“The focus on quality, our growth in student numbers and our commitment to support our students at every stage of their journey gives me complete confidence that we will continue to go from strength to strength. We have already achieved dramatic results in student achievement, retention and progression into work and further study and I can’t wait to achieve even more in the coming year.”
Discover more about Moulton College at www.moulton.ac.uk or visit the college’s social media pages