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Hadlow Pottery students "over the moon" as North Kent College grants a sixth month extension to find a new home

A pottery school for adults with learning difficulties has been given an extra six months to find a new home, after the school's founder spoke of the devastation felt by her students at the thought of losing their beloved community.

Some members of Hadlow Pottery, based in Court Lane , have been attending since the school's inception in 2005, and did not know when they would meet their friends and tutors, after landlord North Kent College said the community interest company needed to leave by November 1.

A class at Hadlow Pottery
A class at Hadlow Pottery

However, following the publication of an article on Monday afternoon, detailing the school's situation and the sadness felt by its 46 pupils, the college has granted a six month extension, while a new base is found.

Founder and director Maggie Blanche, 64, who had already placed many items in storage, said her students were delighted by the news, when she told them over the phone.

"They are over the moon. Some of them are non-verbal and they were just cheering and really happy, it has been wonderful," she said.

The school runs five days a week and hosts an annual open day where pupils can display and sell their work, which boosts their confidence, Mrs Blanche said.

During lockdown, Mrs Blanche, concerned about whether the school could continue if funding, provided by Kent County Council, was cut, wrote to the Hadlow College to initiate her break clause, which was coming up in November.

Founder and director of Hadlow Pottery, Maggie Blanche
Founder and director of Hadlow Pottery, Maggie Blanche

If her funding was cut, she didn't want to be stuck paying the remainder of her two-and-a-half year tenancy, and so asked in May if she could switch to a monthly contract, but explained she had every intention of remaining open.

She heard nothing until she received a letter last month from solicitors acting on behalf of North Kent College, who took over Hadlow College in August after it entered administration, saying these new terms were not acceptable and she would have to leave.

Mrs Blanche asked for an extension, but says she was told it was her fault for intiating the break clause, and then didn't hear back.

Hadlow Pottery is not part of the college, but leases land from it.

Despite desperately searching and on-going discussions with charities, Mrs Blanche has not found anywhere to base the school and was planning to run arts and crafts sessions on Zoom.

Now, face-to-face classes will resume again in November, with social distancing measures in place, and Mrs Blanche is still on the lookout for a small, ground floor space where her community can meet.

A spokesman for North Kent College said: "The tenure of Hadlow Pottery was an issue that arose before North Kent College’s acquisition of elements of Hadlow College and discussions with Hadlow Pottery remain ongoing."

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