Norfolk MP Norman Lamb criticises proposed merger between Norwich and North Walsham colleges

North Norfolk MP Norman Lamb. Picture: Mark Bullimore

North Norfolk MP Norman Lamb. Picture: Mark Bullimore - Credit: Archant

A Norfolk MP has criticised a proposed merger between colleges in Norwich and North Walsham - describing it as a 'crying shame'.

City College Norwich. Picture: Keith Whitmore

City College Norwich. Picture: Keith Whitmore - Credit: Keith Whitmore

Speaking in parliament during a debate on education funding for 16 to 19 year olds on Thursday, north Norfolk MP Norman Lamb raised concerns about the proposed merger between City College Norwich (CCN) and Paston Sixth Form College (PSFC)

He praised the 'brilliant' PSFC, which is in his constituency, pointing to its A-level pass rate of 99.3pc.

But he said: 'It is an institution achieving very high academic standards, yet as a result of a completely flawed area review, it is being forced to merge with CCN.

'That is a good institution, but it serves a different market and has a different purpose from a sixth form college with a very strong academic standard.

Paston Sixth Form College, North Walsham.

Paston Sixth Form College, North Walsham. PHOTO: ANTONY KELLY - Credit: Archant

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'It is a sixth form college in an area that has a low-wage economy and where there is traditionally a low rate of students going on to university, yet we are forcing it to merge and losing it as an independent, stand-alone institution. That is a crying shame.'

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He said he was 'disgusted' by the area review which led to the merger, which he said was 'completely flawed'.

Area reviews of further education have taken place across the country. They consider facilities and education on offer and look at how, and if, it needs to be restructured.

'The area review combines further education colleges and sixth form colleges - two types of organisation that often do very different work - and leaves out school sixth forms, which are doing the same job as sixth form colleges,' he said .

'It is totally flawed. An institution that is currently funded for 688 students is deemed to be unsustainable, when there are two new free schools in Norwich - one of which is funded for 201 students and the other for 80 students - which are deemed to be viable.

'How can anybody justify that uneven playing field, which has forced a brilliant institution to merge and lose its independent status?'

A consultation has been held into the merger, with results due to be published soon.

A spokesperson for CCN and PSFC said the now-closed consultation into the merger, results from which will be published by the end of September, had revealed 'widespread support for this overarching aim'.

'Both institutions are fully cognizant of the importance of preserving and developing the excellent provision of PSFC, as well as maintaining the similarly high quality of the academic technical and professional education and training of CCN,' they said.

'PSFC has gone through a number of changes over its history whilst maintaining its distinct heritage, identity and traditions.

'The proposed merger represents another phase in its development and both colleges are committed to maintaining Paston's much-valued character and academic strengths.'

A Department for Education spokesperson said: 'Our regional team is working closely with PSFC and CCN to offer any support they need in the transition and that they are on track for the December 1 merger. A joint statement will be made by the colleges in due course.'

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