Merger plans for Easton and Otley College receive 'overwhelming support'
PUBLISHED: 07:14 31 October 2019 | UPDATED: 07:14 31 October 2019
Plans to shake up land-based learning in Suffolk and Norfolk by de-merging Easton and Otley College and putting its campuses under the wings of further education (FE) institutions in the two counties are set to go ahead after a strong thumbs-up.
A consultation found overwhelming support for proposals to break up the campuses - based in Norfolk and Suffolk respectively - following two damning Ofsted reports and merge Easton with City College and Otley with Suffolk New College.
Easton and Otley College said feedback had been "positive and supportive", with 110 people providing formal responses and 66 attending discussion events hosted by Easton and Otley chair Mark Pendlington.
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The three institutions have been involved in detailed talks following a review led by Further Education Commissioner Richard Atkins. The mergers are set to be completed by January 1, 2020.
The consultation, launched on August 30 and completed on October 1, invited students, parents, staff, local employers, MPs and the wider community to offer their feedback.
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Responses showed three quarters were in favour of the proposal, and that parents and staff agree that the merger will allow for expansion of courses, enhancement of land-based learning for the region, and the proactive use of existing facilities on the current campuses.
Consultees called for land-based education to be protected in the region, and made clear they did not want it diluted by the mergers. They also wanted assurances that students would be supported in completing their studies as smoothly as possible - with the two FE colleges saying this would a priority.
Another concern raised was the protection of assets, which Suffolk New College said was addressed in a commitment in its business plan to land-based provision.
There was also a call for visible leadership for agriculture and a 'farming champion' to help improve numbers and attainment.
Mr Pendlington said: "It has been very encouraging and exciting to explore the huge opportunities that now exist as the colleges merge, and expectations are very high for the new structure to deliver for present and future students, as well as for our region."
Chair of Suffolk New College Corporation Roger Fern said the positive response from staff at Otley had been "tremendous". "There are already many strengths at Otley College. We shall build on these. Our three main aims are to provide exceptional learning experiences for all current and future students, to re-develop the provision at Otley and to create a place of destination for visitors."