New principal aims to make college outstanding in four years

Principal of Sussex Coast College, Clive Cooke
Principal of Sussex Coast College, Clive Cooke

The new principal at East Sussex Coast College has vowed to transform it into an outstanding performer in four years.

Sussex Coast College will be an ‘outstanding’ Ofsted rating within four years according to its new principal.

Clive Cooke says he is relishing the challenge of turning the failing £100 million complex into a top-rated seat of learning for Hastings.

Mr Cooke took over the reins of the state-of-the-art Station Plaza building on April 2 and worked through the Easter break meeting staff and familiarising himself with the facilities.

The college has endured a turbulent few months after former principal Janak Patel resigned in December following a damning Ofsted report rating it as inadequate.

Mr Cooke is focusing on improving the key areas of teaching and learning.

The new principal revealed his key principles as “honesty, openess, transparency, equal opportunity and respect and education for all.”

And despite the enormity of the task ahead of him, he says he has had bigger challenges.

“I have worked in other troubled colleges before,” said Mr Cooke. “I was the principal of a college in Kent.

“It was troubled like Sussex Coast. It was worse with inadequate finances and very troubled standards. The staff and I took it to a good place.

“When I was at Guildford College we merged with two troubled colleges. We merged Merrist Wood College which was Ofsted inadequate and we got it to Ofsted outstanding. Farnham Sixth Form College had results in the bottom 10 per cent nationally. The staff and I got them up to outstanding in September 2011.”

Mr Cooke, who hails from Birmingham, boasts an impressive CV.

He graduated from Birmingham University in 1983 with a degree in psychology and sociology. He took his first teaching job at City College in Birmingham as a lecturer in psychology and sociology.

In 1989, he went to work as a director of training for a leisure company called Hollywood Fitness and Leisure in Bristol.

In 1991 he took up a role at Bournemouth and Poole College in Dorset as head of Business Studies. In 1997 he was promoted to vice principal for curriculum at the college.

In 2002 he took up his first principal role at South Kent College.

Two years later he moved to Guildford College where he was principal until last year.

After leading a successful merger with Farnham College and Merrist Wood College he decided he needed a new challenge.

“When I first set eyes on this place I thought how lucky the people of Hastings are,” he added. “It is a really beautiful college.

“The college’s ambition is crystal clear. That is providing outstanding education and training for the people of Hastings and Rother.

“Our first focus is teaching and learning. We are putting a significant amount of resource and time to enable teachers to teach effectively.

“We’re monitoring how well students are learning in lessons. The absolute knub of it is learning.

“A good teacher is enthusiastic, inspirational and makes the subject matter come alive and they change between theory and practice.

“We are also going to increase the choice of course standards with foundation and GCSE level courses.

“What we can’t keep supporting is sub-standard teaching.

“To get a college of this size to oustanding will take us about four years. It is a big challenge but I think in 2016 we will be there.”