Easton and Otley College today launches a public consultation, encouraging views from across the East Anglian community on its proposed merger with City College Norwich and Suffolk New College.
The three institutions have been in talks to work together following a review led by Further Education Commissioner Richard Atkins, which has proposed the colleges complete a merger by the end of December 2019.
Today sees the opening of the formal period of consultation, during which students, parents, staff, local employers and the wider community are invited and encouraged to share their thoughts on the plan.
With a clear objective to provide a secure future for land-based learning in Norfolk and Suffolk, the proposal aims to result in two resilient and financially sustainable organisations, with widened educational offerings and strong industry partnerships.
In recent weeks, the Easton and Otley leadership team has been overwhelmed by support in the face of its new chapter, with MPs, business leaders and sector specialists keen to see the region retain its strong reputation for food and agricultural linked education.
The consultation period is set to run until midnight on 1 October, after which all responses received will be considered carefully, before a final proposal is presented to the governing bodies of all three colleges and a final decision is reached. Meanwhile, detailed work continues on business planning and financial due diligence.
Mark Pendlington, Chair of Easton and Otley College Corporation, said: “This consultation is an open invitation to all those in the region who wish to help secure a long-term future for the land-based education in the East of England. We are asking students, parents, business and community leaders, as well as elected representatives and local authorities to share their views and ambitions for the future of the sector. This is a real call to action, and we are confident that many people will want to help and get involved.
“We’ve 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.
He added: “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.”
Mr Pendlington promised that both current College campuses will continue to run with a ‘business as usual’ approach throughout the coming months, while the consultation takes place.
“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.”
Andrew Barnes, Chair of City College Norwich Corporation said:
“The continuing dialogue we are having with employers from the agricultural sector gives us added confidence that land-based training in our region can and will flourish through this proposal.
“We are looking forward to widening the conversation, through this public consultation, and to hearing what all members of the local community think of our plans.
“Both City College Norwich and Easton and Otley College have a strong history, and it is our aim to maintain, develop and celebrate their individual strengths and specialisms following the merger.
“After completion, we strongly believe the wider choice of courses and increased progression routes available will provide even more opportunities for young people to achieve their individual aspirations.”
Chair of Suffolk New College Corporation, Roger Fern, said: “This is a real opportunity for people to have their say on the future of land-based education in Suffolk and Norfolk.
“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.
“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.
“We want to continue to support New Anglia LEP priorities, maintain positive working relationships with our other educational partners, stakeholders and supporters and we will be seeking to create many new partnerships that will help place us at the very heart of our community.”
A document setting out the full proposal, which includes how the University of East Anglia and College of West Anglia are set to become close working partners, can be found at www.eocmerger.co.uk.
All details about the consultation, and how to make your views known, are found via the link, or by emailing (email@example.com).
In addition, the document can be obtained from FOUR Agency, Hill House, 20 Hill House Road, Norwich NR1 4BE.
The Principals will be available at both the Easton and the Otley campuses to discuss the merger with members of the public on the following dates:
Tues Sept 3, 1pm to 6pm
Weds Sept 11, 1pm to 6pm
Thurs Sept 19, 8am to 1pm
Weds Sept 25, 8am to 1pm
Fri Sept 6, 8am to 1pm
Tues Sept 10, 1pm to 6pm
Tues Sept 17, 2.30pm to 6pm
Tues Sept 24, 1pm to 6pm
City College Norwich
Thurs Sept 5, 8am to 1pm
Fri Sept 27, 1pm to 6pm
Suffolk New College
Weds Sept 11, 1pm to 6pm
Thurs Sept 19, 8am to 1pm
Please report to the College’s reception at the Easton and the Otley Campuses.
There will be other opportunities to meet the team to discuss the proposed merger and a link to these additional dates will be placed on the merger website.
Replies to the consultation need to be received by midnight on Tuesday 1 October 2019.
All three Colleges will consider all responses received by that date and will publish a summary of the consultation and its outcomes by 31 October 2019 (to be available at www.eocmerger.co.uk).