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EKC Group plans to take on Ashford College as Hadlow Group split proposed

Plans to split up control of colleges in the troubled Hadlow Group have been revealed.

The college group hit the headlines earlier this year when it emerged two senior leaders had been suspended following an investigation into its finances.

The departures came following the formal intervention of the Further Education Commissioner, which recommends what actions college governing bodies could make to improve performance.

Ashford College (7788480)
Ashford College (7788480)

Now it has been revealed that a meeting has been held between the Commissioner, Department for Education officials and representatives from the EKC Group, to discuss "a clear resolution to the issues that Hadlow Group has been facing".

As a result, interested parties were invited to develop detailed plans for all or parts of the Hadlow Group sites and EKC - which has campuses in Broadstairs, Canterbury, Dover, Folkestone and Sheppey - has now developed a proposal to bring Ashford College and the Canterbury Spring Lane Campus into its group.

Work on this is ongoing before the FE Commissioner is expected to make a decision on June 14 and if accepted, the process could be finalised ahead of the start of the 2019/20 academic year.

It is understood other college groups in the county may also be considering similar plans for other sites within the Hadlow Group portfolio.

EKC Group was formed from the 2018 merger between Canterbury College and East Kent College, which had previously taken on the poorly-performing former K College campuses in Dover and Folkestone.

Mark Lumsdon-Taylor was suspended by the Hadlow Group earlier this year. Picture: Andy Jones
Mark Lumsdon-Taylor was suspended by the Hadlow Group earlier this year. Picture: Andy Jones

Both have seen significant rises in performance, while Canterbury and East Kent also received strong Ofsted gradings, with inspectors highlighting the breadth of experience of the senior leadership team in helping colleges which face challenges.

EKC Group chairman Charles Buchanan said: “At the meeting with DfE officials and the FE Commissioner we proposed a local solution that would bring Ashford College and the Canterbury Spring Lane campus into the EKC Group family.

"We have been asked to develop a detailed proposal which sets out a clear plan to regrow the college, and build its student base.

"We are well positioned to do this, and will be undertaking the work over the coming weeks.

"EKC Group is absolutely committed to ensuring a solution which serves the needs of students of the college, as well as stakeholders and the wider community.

"We look forward to setting out our plan at a later date.”

EKC Group
EKC Group

Principal Graham Razey added: “Since 2014 we have taken on the former K College campuses of Dover and Folkestone, rebuilding their quality and developing educational provision which is aligned to the skills needs of employers while also serving the local community.

"More recently, the merger between Canterbury College and East Kent College saw the creation of EKC Group, which has already had a range of successes in its first year.

"Throughout all of this growth we have always placed students, the community and our stakeholders at the heart of everything we do, and our proposals for Ashford College and the Canterbury Spring Lane campus will reflect this philosophy."

East Kent College and Canterbury College principal Graham Razey (3881770)
East Kent College and Canterbury College principal Graham Razey (3881770)

A spokesman for the Hadlow Group said: “Both Hadlow College and West Kent and Ashford College are working closely with the FE Commissioner, and all those involved, to secure a sustainable future for both colleges.

"Proposals have been invited from a number of interested parties, of which the EKC Group is just one.”

Mark Lumsdon-Taylor, the group's former deputy principal and chief executive, is due to hold a conference next month where he will discuss "then….now…and the future."

Mid Kent College and North Kent College were also approached for comment on the prospect of bringing other sites into their groups.


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