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West Kent and Ashford College applies to be placed in education administration

Two more colleges within a scandal-hit education group could be placed in administration tomorrow.

In an unprecedented move earlier this year, the Department for Education applied to the courts for Hadlow College to go through a new insolvency regime.

The Hadlow Group, which runs the college, has had a difficult 12 months after both chief executive Paul Hannan and deputy chief executive Mark Lumsdon-Taylor were suspended amid an investigation into its finances.

The Further Education Commissioner - who recommends what actions college governing bodies could make to improve performance - first intervened at the start of the year and concerns remain, despite a positive recent Ofsted inspection.

Now West Kent and Ashford College (WKAC) bosses have filed a request to also be placed into education administration, after the FE Commissioner recently recommended East Kent College Group should take on its provision and facilities in Ashford, and North Kent College those in Tonbridge.

WKAC chair Martin Doel said: “While finances have been stabilised over recent months, the college is faced with exceptional outstanding liabilities and would be insolvent without external support.

West Kent College (13938553)
West Kent College (13938553)

“Entering education administration would provide the college with an effective means of implementing the recommendations in the Further Education Commissioner’s Options Review, which are aimed at obtaining a long-term sustainable solution for the existing provision offered by the college.”

Despite this, the colleges will continue to operate as normal, with applications and enrolments being taken for courses starting in September and qualifications for existing students unaffected by the process.

Staff will also continue to be employed as normal but if the application is approved, it is expected that education administrators will be appointed at a hearing tomorrow.

Graham Morley, interim principal at the college, said: "We recognise that students, applicants and their families, alongside employers and other partners, may well be concerned about the impact that the education administration application may have on them and their courses.

Ashford College (7788480)
Ashford College (7788480)

"We would like to reassure that this will not affect the day-to-day operations of the college. All courses will continue as normal and they should still apply to, and enrol with, us for this September."

Tonbridge and Malling MP Tom Tugendhat has also offered his support and called for a swift resolution.

“Though it is concerning when any college applies for education administration, I am assured by the college and administrators that this is a necessary step in order to safeguard the long-term interests of students and staff at West Kent College," he said.

"This is very much part of the solution, rather than the emergence of another problem.

“The Further Education Commissioner’s report shows very clearly the recommendations for the future of West Kent College.

MP Tom Tugendhat
MP Tom Tugendhat

"I am delighted that he agrees that its partnership with Hadlow College it essential for the education of students in Tonbridge, something that I made very clear to him and the Department for Education (DfE) during his assessment.

“In the meantime I will continue to offer my support to staff and students at the College, who have continued to do great work, while the long term situation is resolved.”

A DfE spokeswoman added: “Following a request from West Kent and Ashford College we have applied to the court to place the college in education administration.

"This is now a matter for the court. This process is designed to specifically ensure that learners’ interests are protected and continue their studies with minimal disruption."

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