'New era' for troubled college as merger is confirmed
PUBLISHED: 07:15 20 December 2019 | UPDATED: 07:37 20 December 2019
Copyright Archant Norfolk 2016
A troubled rural college hailed "a new era for land-based education in Norfolk and Suffolk" after confirming a merger which aims to revive failing standards after two inadequate Ofsted ratings.
Easton and Otley College has announced it will formally be dissolved on January 1 to complete the two-way merger with Norwich City College, which will run the Norfolk campus at Easton, and Suffolk New College, which will take over the Otley campus.
The proposals - announced earlier this year on the recommendation of Further Education commissioner Richard Atkins - were approved by the Easton and Otley College board following a public consultation with students, parents, staff, employers and the wider community which showed 75pc supported the merger.
The college offers courses such as agriculture, horticulture and animal studies, and said its 5,000 students will continue to study as per their previous course arrangements and at the site to which they were originally signed up.
Mark Pendlington, chairman of the Easton and Otley College Corporation, has previously voiced criticism of the regulatory process as the college battled to raise standards after two critical Ofsted reports in 2017 and 2018. But he welcomed the merger which he said was "the best possible outcome for students and employers in this region".
"This is the beginning of a new era for land-based education in Norfolk and Suffolk and we are extremely pleased to be giving the green light to the two-way merger with City College Norwich and Suffolk New College," he said.
"I am confident that this will secure the future of land-based learning, build on talent, drive innovation, and will create even more opportunities for those wishing to develop a career in the sector which has such significance to our region, and nationally and globally too."
The completion of the mergers on January 1 will see Norfolk-based students attending Easton College under the leadership of City College Norwich principal Corrienne Peasgood.
Andrew Barnes, chairman of the City College Norwich Corporation, said: "We are looking forward to working with all partners to turn our vision for Easton College, and for land-based skills in the region, into reality.
"We will do this by building on Easton College's vast expertise and specialist facilities for land-based training, whilst continuing to work closely with the farming community and the many other employers who support the training of Easton College students."
The merger process has been overseen by a joint steering group of governors and leaders from all three colleges. In the coming days, they said their respective teams will continue to liaise with staff, trade unions, employers, students, parents and feeder schools, in order to ensure a smooth transition.
The confirmation of the merger was welcomed by rural industry leaders including Rachel Carrington, East Anglia regional director for the National Farmers' Union (NFU), who said: "This has been a difficult process for those involved but I'm pleased mergers have now been confirmed at the Easton and Otley campuses. We look forward to working with the colleges under these new arrangements, to ensure they deliver for farmers and students.
"Farm businesses in East Anglia employ 40,000 people, plus supporting thousands of jobs in allied industries, and it's essential that they can recruit people with the right skills. The colleges have a key role to play in training, equipping and inspiring the farmers and farm workers of tomorrow."