Frequently asked questions
Both Paston Sixth Form College and City College Norwich would like to thank everyone who has taken the time to respond to the Public Consultation on the proposed merger.

Feedback has been received from a wide range of stakeholders, from staff and students through to local business owners and community members. Some respondents were responding on a personal basis and some on behalf of organisations.

A Response to Consultation feedback document has been created to collate and summarise the responses and to address the key themes raised. In addition to this, we have updated these FAQs, originally published alongside the Consultation on Merger Proposal document, to answer additional questions raised through the Consultation responses. 

What is a merger?  
A merger is the combining of two or more organisations. In this case, what is proposed is the voluntary combining of a Sixth Form College and a general further education college, enabling us to create a resilient organisation that is financially sustainable and serves its local community by offering high quality education and training in North Walsham, Norwich and North East Norfolk.

Subject to the Public Consultation process, and to the satisfactory completion of legal and financial due diligence, it is proposed that Paston Sixth Form College will merge with City College Norwich through what is known as a Type B merger. The Corporation of Paston Sixth Form College (i.e. governing body) will be disbanded as a legal body. This is a process known as ‘dissolution’ (the action of formally ending a partnership or official body) and the assets, rights and liabilities will be transferred to City College Norwich. 

Why are these two Colleges merging?
Together the two Colleges can combine their complementary strengths and offer a wider, richer range of academic, technical and professional opportunities to 16-18 school leavers, adults, higher education students and the business community in Norfolk.

Furthermore, in recent years, pressure on the public purse has meant that colleges have had to think more creatively about how they provide the best value for money. We have successfully managed the impact of budget cuts to date but it is clear that pressure on funding is likely to increase. This proactive, forward-thinking merger gives the new organisation the opportunity to shape in a positive way the future of education and skills in the North East Norfolk area.

What is a Consultation?
A Consultation is the action of formally discussing a proposal with key audiences. Consultation provides a two-way flow of information and opinion and has been used as an opportunity by both Colleges to understand the views from different groups about our ideas.

The Consultation provided the opportunity for us to receive feedback on our proposal by those it will affect directly and indirectly. Opinions from staff, students, parents, prospective students, employers, business community and ‘friends’ of the Colleges will help to shape the merger process.  

What form did the Consultation take?
Consultations take many forms. We wanted to gather as much information and opinion as possible and to this end we held briefings with staff and students as well as writing directly to students, parents, new applicants, employers, the local community and key stakeholders. 
Both Principals were available at advertised times to meet stakeholders and members of the public and to talk through the proposed merger and their initial thoughts. 

A Public Consultation ran from 22 June 2017 to midnight on Saturday 22 July 2017, in which people were invited to submit their responses via post, email or through the online survey. A response from the Colleges was made public on 22 September 2017.

How will the merger affect students?  
It will be ‘business as usual’ for students. Both Paston Sixth Form College and City College Norwich’s pre-planned 2017/18 curriculum plan will remain the same to ensure minimal disruption to both students and staff. 

Overall, the students should not notice changes when the merger takes place. Students will receive the same excellent student experience Paston Sixth Form College and City College Norwich have always strived to provide. The merger will enhance student provision and opportunities through the new organisation. 

Will more travel be required between the two sites? 
Students currently studying at either College, or who have just enrolled, will continue as normal on the course they signed up for and at the site they planned to study.

The aim of the new institution is to create a broader curriculum offer available at Paston, which will provide increased vocational opportunities and progression to higher education and employment within North East Norfolk. Such an offer is likely to impact positively on the ‘travel to learn’ patterns for students, particularly those in North Norfolk. This will benefit a significant number of students, allowing them to be able to study closer to home.  

In only a small minority of subjects, which are otherwise in danger of being dropped from the curriculum, will students have to travel between sites. The new institution is very aware of the distances between the sites and will fully support any students in this situation. It is not in the interests of the College and the students to spend time travelling at the expense of valuable study time. 

How will this affect the courses available? 
Together, the two Colleges already provide a rich and varied offer of academic, vocational and technical education and training. As a combined institution, it will be more securely placed to safeguard and maintain this offering in the face of significant reductions in public sector funding. 

The courses offered will remain the same as planned for current students and those enrolled in 2017. The curriculum offering will continue to be reviewed each academic year, as it always has been, to ensure it meets the needs of local learners and employers. 

The shared aim remains to be able to preserve and develop the excellent academic provision of Paston Sixth Form College and the much valued technical and vocational training of City College Norwich. More information about academic and vocational provision has been included in the Response to Public Consultation document. 

How will this affect the college sites? 
Without the merger, due to public spending pressure, increased competition and a declining 16-18 demographic, Paston would not be able to continue to operate. The merger will help to safeguard the future of all sites owned by Paston Sixth Form College and City College Norwich in the face of the significant financial and student enrolment pressures, as outlined in the Consultation on Merger Proposal document.  

The shared vision is that the combined organisation will increase and enhance the educational provision available, and this will require all teaching sites owned by the merged College to remain fully functioning.   

How will the merger affect staff?
More information about the process of staff contracts being transferred under the proposed Type B Merger and the staffing plan for the merged organisation has been included in the Response to Public Consultation document. Ongoing consultations and discussions with staff, working closely with relevant trade unions, will continue throughout the process.

Under the merger, staff particularly at Paston, will have the benefits of working in a larger and more financially resilient organisation. There will be an opportunity to work with wider peer groups, particularly important for minority and specialist subjects. 

How will the merged organisation be managed?
Staff working for the new combined organisation will have students as the central focus for everything they do. By working together across the sites, they can enhance provision, drive up standards and improve exam outcomes. Executive leadership for the merged College will support 2 academic managers based in North Walsham. More information about the leadership and management has been included in the Response to Public Consultation document. 

How will this affect the Colleges’ partners?  
Both Colleges enjoy extensive partnership links with schools, other colleges, universities and local industry and employers.
Working through these important partnerships helps us to ensure we can meet the needs of industry, our local authorities and current and future students. We aim to continue to develop and improve relationships with our many partners and believe a merged College will help us achieve more with effective use of our resources.

How will this affect the community?
By continuing in the existing locations in North Walsham and Norwich, we think there will a great many advantages for our communities, these were set out in the Consultation Proposal Merger document and the core elements are as follows:

Benefits – Employers  
  • Improving employer engagement through the further development of activities in business, work experience and student placements
  • Increasing the scale of apprenticeship delivery by widening the offer and increasing provision across North East Norfolk.
Benefits – our Communities
  • Broadening the curriculum offer to the North East Norfolk community
  • Building on the ability to respond to employer skills needs across Central and North East Norfolk with the full range of skills provision
  • Responding to ‘gaps’ in current provision such as courses for students with high needs, learning difficulties and disabilities (LDD) and Access to HE
  • Better focusing of work already underway to encourage progression to Higher Education from ‘cold spots’ in and around Norwich and North Walsham.
In brief, this proposal is designed to provide greater choices for post-16 learning in North East Norfolk to the benefit of young people and employers in the area.

What is the proposed name of the merged College?
The full name of City College Norwich is ‘Norwich City College of Further and Higher Education’ and that will remain the formal name of the combined institution. However, ‘Paston College’ at North Walsham will retain the strong Paston brand.  

What is the cost of the merger?
The cost of the merger will be partially funded by a £100,000 transition grant from the Department of Education. This funding is part of the package of financial support available to colleges and Sixth Form Colleges which were recommended to merge following its Area Review of Post-16 Education and Training in Norfolk and Suffolk. Every effort will be made to limit merger costs throughout the process. 

Despite short term costs, the two Colleges, and all those behind the Area Review, believe the merger is the only route to achieving the critical mass of students and economies of scale required to remain financially viable in the long term.
Were any other options considered? 
The Area Review of Post-16 Education and Training in Norfolk and Suffolk was established to review how local colleges could remain financially stable and well-positioned to meet the present and future needs of individual students and the demands of employers. 

Throughout the review, local colleges worked closely with their LEP, local authorities and the review team to discuss potential options for change and how they could better meet the local skills need while also increasing efficiency and resilience. 

The conclusion of this review was that the merger of Paston Sixth Form College with City College Norwich was the most suitable option to ensure that provision can be maintained and enhanced in North Norfolk and that a sustainable offer can be retained in North Walsham at the Paston campus.

Who takes the final decision?
The final decision on whether the merger will go ahead will rest with the governing bodies of both institutions and will be taken after the due diligence process.

What is the timeline?
This public consultation began on Thursday 22 June 2017 and closed at midnight on Saturday 22 July 2017. Feedback was in favour of the proposal which confirms our decision to seek to achieve the merger on 1 December 2017. 

How can I have my say?
We have been satisfied that the Consultation gave everyone in the community an opportunity to respond. We have listened to the positive, negative and neutral comments and all the advice given, which will help to shape our future plans for the merger and the new institution going forward. 

We will continue to hold ongoing consultations and discussions with staff, working closely with relevant trade unions, throughout the process. 

It is important that we continue to listen to your views and both the Principals will therefore make themselves available to meet stakeholders and members of the public who wish to talk through our merger proposals. Dates will be added to this website

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