Break-up of first college in administration begins

Hadlow College has begun transferring campuses to other providers after it became the first to enter education administration last year.

The Mottingham campus, which has 186 learners and 23 staff, was taken over by Capel Manor on 1 January.

Hadlow’s interim principal Graham Morley called it an “important step” towards resolving the financial issues facing the college which “removes some of the uncertainty for both the staff and students with regards to the future direction of the campus”.

He gave his thanks to the staff for their help in making the transfer possible: “It is sad to have to say goodbye to valued colleagues, all of whom have displayed the highest levels of professionalism in exceptionally challenging times.”

Hadlow went into administration in May with £40 million in debts, after accusations of wrongdoing by its former leadership team piled up.

The transfer to Capel Manor is part of a three-way split the FE Commissioner recommended for Hadlow and its sister college West Kent and Ashford College, which went into administration in August.

A report by administrators BDO released this morning revealed that by the end of March, East Kent College is expected to have taken control of Hadlow’s Canterbury and WKAC’s Ashford campuses.

Meanwhile, North Kent College will run the Hadlow campus and its Greenwich facilities, as well as WKAC’s Tonbridge provision and its Princess Christian Farm – a facility for people with learning disabilities in Kent.

Both colleges have been approached for comment.

Capel Manor College is a land-based college, like Hadlow, with 3,000 students and 300 learners spread across five campuses in London.

It is rated as ‘good’ by Ofsted, most recently at a short inspection in 2016. Its 2017/18 accounts show it generated a surplus of £357,000, had 261 employees and a financial health rating of ‘outstanding’.

It is envisioned Mottingham will be fully-integrated into its new parent college, and new courses will be put on at the campus, including in horticulture, garden design, turf management, environmental conservation and arboriculture.

Capel Manor principal Malcolm Goodwin said they are “truly excited” about including Mottingham in their existing family of campuses.

Hadlow has already had to sell off its Betteshanger country and business parks to developers, which today’s BDO report showed brought in £1.47 million for the college.

An earlier report by the administrators detailed how the college owed money to 300 creditors, many of which were small businesses.

During an intervention by FE Commissioner Richard Atkins, it was found the boards both failed in their fiduciary duty and put the “sustainability of both colleges and learners at risk”.

The principal and deputy principal of both colleges, Paul Hannan and Mark Lumsdon-Taylor, as well as Hadlow chair Theresa Bruton all resigned from their roles after the commissioner visited.

The former leaders are currently being investigated by the Insolvency Service. If there is evidence of misconduct, and it’s in the public interest, measures such as director disqualification could be enforced.