Easton and Otley to be carved up after damning Ofsted inspections
- Credit: Archant
A land-based college operating across Suffolk and Norfolk is set to be broken up after being rated ‘inadequate’ by Ofsted inspectors.
A radical restructure plan for Easton and Otley College - which has campuses in both counties - means that it will be split up, with the Norwich campus joining City College Norwich and the Otley half becoming part of Suffolk New College.
But the college says its 5,000 students should see courses continuing as usual while the colleges are split and reformed behind the scenes.
MORE - Secret suitors in bid to revive fortunes of 'inadequate' Suffolk collegeWhat went wrong at the college?
The fate of the college, which was formed out of a merger between Easton College and Otley College back in 2012, became problematic following a first 'inadequate' rating back in May 2017, but it was the second catastrophic thumbs down from Ofsted in October 2018 which proved fatal.
Among the areas flagged as inadequate in the Ofsted were outcomes for learners, personal development, behaviour and welfare.
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What did the education department decide to do about it?
The college came under intense scrutiny from further education officials, with further education commissioner Richard Atkins determining that the college should be attached to another educational institution.
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This led to a bid from the University of East Anglia and a joint one from Suffolk New and Norwich City colleges, with the commissioner deciding in favour of the latter.
What does Easton and Otley do?
Easton and Otley is the only specialist education and training provider in the counties providing a gamut of land-based courses including agriculture, horticulture, countryside and animal studies.
Announcing the new two-way merger, described as "a dynamic new collaboration", Easton and Otley said it would secure the long-term future of land-based education in the region.
The new mergers, timetabled to be completed by the end of the calendar year, will, in turn, come under intense scrutiny from farming leaders to ensure land-based education to support food and agriculture sector - one of the region's top employers - is safeguarded.
What's the college's response?
The college said it was "determined" to rise to the challenges which the sector has been facing.
The plans, subject to public consultation and legal and financial due diligence, will see UEA and the College of West Anglia as "close working partners", involved in supporting the delivery of further and higher education courses.
What happens next?
Mr Atkins's business review, launched in December, involved the college, Norfolk and Suffolk county councils, New Anglia Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP), and the National Farmers' Union (NFU) as well as other business and community leaders.
Under the merger plan, the "highest priority" will be given to enabling students to complete their studies at their current site. The colleges will focus on making more 'employment ready' courses available, and agreeing a business plan to support the land-based industry.
What does the principal have to say about the break-up of the college?
Principal Jane Townsend said her team was "fully committed" to ensuring improvement are driven through during the transition period. "It will be 'business as usual' for students as we teach and inspire the future leaders of our sector," she said.
"Both Suffolk New College and Norwich City College have successful track records of driving quality improvement. We are now able to benefit from that experience through this collaboration; a model which has proved successful elsewhere in the country."
The merger, planned for December 31, will be preceded by an internal business review and a public consultation.
What does the chair of governors think?
College chair of governors Mark Pendlington, appointed after the first Ofsted fail, admitted it had been "a tough couple of years".
"There remains much to do and we will continue our focus of building upon the progress already made," he said. "In agreeing to this merger, high expectations have been set by the college's board and leadership team."
What reassurances has Suffolk New College offered about land-based courses?
Suffolk New College principal Viv Gillespie, said they were "delighted" to be joining forces with the Otley campus, and said they were "determined" to honour the college's agricultural and horticultural roots with exciting plans for the Otley campus, including new land-based programmes.