FE Commissioner recommends 3-way split for Hadlow College Group

The FE Commissioner has recommended that the Hadlow College Group be split-up and taken on by three colleges, FE Week can reveal.

Richard Atkins’ team has made the recommendation following a review of the scandal-hit group, which saw Hadlow College become the first provider to fall under the new insolvency regime with the appointment of three education administrators in May.

The group’s various parts are now expected to be taken on by North Kent College, East Kent Colleges Group and Capel Manor College (see below for full breakdown).

A spokesperson for the Hadlow Group said: “The Education Administrators (in respect to Hadlow College) and the West Kent and Ashford College board will now consider these recommendations.  

“Staff have been informed of the recommendations and will be made aware of relevant decisions as soon as possible and, where appropriate, will be kept informed over the summer.”

He added that the colleges will undertake a “series of staff update sessions” around the campuses/sites next week where “staff can raise any questions or issues of concern in relation to the recommendations and the next steps”. 

“We expect to make a further statement once a decision has been reached regarding recommendations,” the spokesperson said.

Financial advisory firm BDO was appointed to oversee the potential sale or transfer of assets within the Hadlow Group – which includes Hadlow College and West Kent and Ashford College – to neighbouring colleges in May.

Hadlow College was placed into education administration by a High Court Judge on May 22.

Investigations into financial irregularities are ongoing, including the role of the principal, deputy principal and two college chairs, all of whom have now departed in disgrace.

North Kent College is now expected to take over Hadlow College, including its Greenwich site and Princess Christian’s Farm, as well as West Kent College.

With sites in Dartford and Gravesend, North Kent College last received a full Ofsted inspection in 2014 when it was awarded a grade two, which it kept following a short inspection in 2017.

According to their accounts for last year, they employ 335 people with a total income of £25 million, £13.8 million in long-term loans and an ESFA financial health score of “good”.

East Kent College’s Group has been recommended to take on Hadlow’s Canterbury site, which deals with animal management, as well as Ashford College.

The EKC Group was created after East Kent and Canterbury College merged last year and it employs more than 1,000 people and has a turnover of around £55 million.

East Kent College had been awarded an Ofsted grade two in 2017 prior to the merger. Canterbury College was also awarded an Ofsted grade two but had been given an FE Commissioner notice of concern for financial health in March 2016, coming after three consecutive grade threes. They have campuses in Broadstairs, Canterbury, Folkestone, Dover and Sheppy.

Capel Manor College has been recommended to take on Hadlow Group’s Mottingham site, which also deals with animal management.

Capel Manor College is a land-based college primarily based on a large site in Enfield, but also runs courses at Crystal Palace Park, Gunnersbury Park, Brooks Farm in Leyton and Regent’s Park.

The college last received a full Ofsted inspection in 2013 when it was awarded a grade two, which it kept following a short inspection in 2016.

Accounts for last year report an ESFA financial health score of “outstanding”, with 261 employees and a total income of £13.5 million.