Published: 12:31, 17 August 2020
| Updated: 13:29, 17 August 2020
Two colleges, which became the first in the country to enter educational administration, have been saved.
Students and education-related facilities at Hadlow College and the Tonbridge campus of West Kent and Ashford College have now been transferred to the management of North Kent College, (NKC) which has campuses in Gravesend and Dartford.
It will expand the number of courses NKC can offer, and includes an equestrian centre in Greenwich.
Tonbridge and Malling MP Tom Tugendhat, who has been in close contact with all parties involved including the Further Education Commissioner and Department for Education throughout the process, welcomed the transfer - which is the largest ever further education transaction in the country.
Mr Tugendhat said: "Hadlow and West Kent College leaving administration is not just important to us locally, but it is of national significance. It is a new beginning for the colleges which can thrive under new leadership."
In 2019, the colleges went into administration following an investigation into the financial affairs of the Hadlow Group from the Further Education Commissioner. They have been run by interim principal, Graham Morley, since then while administrators BDO oversaw the transaction.
Mr Tugendhat added: “I would like to pay tribute to Graham Morley and his team who have steered the colleges through some difficult times over the past 18 months. They have helped keep students learning and have made a huge difference to so many in their studies.
“I am delighted to help deliver on the commitment to save Hadlow and West Kent College I made at the General Election.
"This is only possible following changes to national legislation allowing the education administration process, putting students first.
"I look forward to working with North Kent College to keep Hadlow and West Kent Colleges as some of the very best further education facilities in the area.”
David Gleed, chief executive and executive principal of North Kent College, said: “We are delighted to welcome the staff and students from Hadlow and West Kent Colleges into a larger college.
"As we move into this exciting new chapter, it brings with it a wealth of opportunities. We’ve secured course provision for all current and new learners and this is the outcome we have worked exceptionally hard to achieve.
“The union will strengthen the breadth of our curriculum offer and our training provision across Kent and equip students with the skills and knowledge to prepare them for successful careers and further studies.
“We will continue to serve all local communities and build working relationships across the county, striving to ensure a strong and consistently reliable offer.
“We are looking forward to the future, the evolution of our extended portfolio and developing our robust and diverse vocational offer further.”
Mr Morley added: “This transfer of Hadlow College, including its equestrian centre in Greenwich, and the Tonbridge site of West Kent and Ashford College to North Kent College, has successfully secured their future as valuable community assets.
“It has preserved both colleges’ long-standing heritage, ensured that specialist land-based education remains within the Garden of England and positively concluded a process that started in February 2019 with the FE Commissioner’s intervention and subsequent publication of his report.
"This transfer has successfully secured their future as valuable community assets..."
“On a personal note, this transfer also brings to a close my involvement with both colleges.
"It is therefore with sadness that I say goodbye to all the valued colleagues I’ve worked with these last 18 months.
"The professionalism, dedication and commitment to the learner shown by each of them, despite the many challenges we have faced, has been an inspiration. I wish them every success for the future as they start their new journey with North Kent College.”