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'This is a call to action' - Consultation begins for Easton and Otley College merger with Suffolk New College

PUBLISHED: 08:25 30 August 2019 | UPDATED: 08:25 30 August 2019

Easton and Otley College's Otley campus, which is set to be split from Easton Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN

Easton and Otley College's Otley campus, which is set to be split from Easton Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN

Archant

A public consultation is under way for the proposed merger between Easton and Otley College with City College Norwich and Suffolk New College.

Chair of governors at Easton and Otley College  Mark Pendlington. Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWNChair of governors at Easton and Otley College Mark Pendlington. Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN

Earlier this year drastic restructure plans were revealed for the land-based college following a second 'inadequate' from education watchdog Ofsted.

The proposal would see Easton and Otley College, which has campuses in both Norfolk and Suffolk, split up.

Easton and Otley College Campus   Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWNEaston and Otley College Campus Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN

The Easton campus would join City College while the Otley half would become part of Suffolk New College.

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

All three institutions have been in talks to work together following a review which suggested the colleges complete a merger by the end of the year.

Roger Fern speaking at the event.  Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWNRoger Fern speaking at the event. Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN

Today marks the opening of the formal period of consultation, during which students, parents, staff, local employers and the wider community are encouraged to share their thoughts on the plan.

The consultation period is set to run until midnight on October 1 before a final proposal is presented to the governing bodies of all three colleges and a final decision is reached.

Easton and Otley College Campus   Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWNEaston and Otley College Campus Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN

"This is a real call to action, and we are confident that many people will want to help and get involved," said Mark Pendlington, chairman of Easton and Otley College.

"We have spent the last two years planning how best to serve the needs of this largest sector in our growing economy, while teaching and inspiring the future leaders of the land based industry. All against a very difficult backdrop of the challenges facing further education as a whole.

Chair of governors at Easton and Otley College,  Mark Pendlington  Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWNChair of governors at Easton and Otley College, Mark Pendlington Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN

"By adapting to change and driving progress, we see merging the Easton campus with City College Norwich, and Otley campus with Suffolk New College, as an exciting opportunity to become an even stronger educational resource for students, both present and future."

"We are absolutely committed to a solution that provides outstanding teaching and training opportunities, as well as strong finances to enable more investment and growth, and a truly inspiring business plan which propels the land-based industry to lead the way in the new competitive post-Brexit world of the future."

Horticulture lessons in the grounds of Easton and Otley College Campus   Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWNHorticulture lessons in the grounds of Easton and Otley College Campus Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN

MORE: 'Brexit hotline' set up to help Suffolk businesses tackle no-deal fallout

Mr Pendlington promised both current college campuses will continue to run with a 'business as usual' approach throughout the coming months for its 5,000 students while the consultation takes place.

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He added: "The priority of the college board, the leadership team and all our dedicated staff is to ensure that our students continue to receive the level of teaching and learning they need and deserve, while the future of both campuses is secured."

The future of the current college set-up first ran into trouble in May 2017 when it received an 'inadequate' rating, however it was the second damning Ofsted report in October 2018 which provided the fatal blow.

Easton and Otley College Campus   Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWNEaston and Otley College Campus Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN

Among the areas flagged as inadequate in the Ofsted were outcomes for learners, personal development, behaviour and welfare.

Roger Fern, chairman of Suffolk New College, added: ""From our point of view, we are incredibly excited to be playing a part in supporting and shaping a dynamic new era for farming, land associated businesses and other key local industries through our new partnership with the Otley campus.

Easton and Otley College Campus   Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWNEaston and Otley College Campus Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN

"Looking ahead, we have ambitious plans for Otley and we will honour the farming and land-based legacy that has been created at Otley over many decades.

"We believe that by joining forces with Otley, we will help create a new powerful legacy for land-based education - and education in general."

Consultations will take place at Otley campus on:

- Friday, September 6 (8am - 1pm)

- Tuesday, September 10 (1pm - 6pm)

- Tuesday, September 17 (2.30pm - 6pm)

- Tuesday, September 24 (1pm - 6pm)

And at Suffolk New College on:

- Wednesday, September 11 (1pm - 6pm)

- Thursday, September 19 (8am - 1pm)

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