After local campaigners successfully prevented an unwelcome merger, the college’s chair explains how the board intends to take things forward in a more amenable fashion

An FE Week headline recently cast me as the “embattled” chair of Kensington and Chelsea College, but that’s not what it feels like to me.

There’s no doubt that this college has been through a difficult period, and I was sorry in many ways that the merger with our neighbouring Ealing, Hammersmith and West London College did not proceed.

But a successful college always needs the support of its students, staff and the community it serves, and we were not able to secure that support for this merger.

The recent history of KCC has seen student numbers fall, a grade three rating from Ofsted and an unpalatable level of financial operating losses.

The FE commissioner’s assessment makes it clear that KCC does not have a future as a standalone college. Add to that the sale of our north Kensington site to the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea (RBKC) and the terrible toll wrought on our community by the Grenfell Tower fire last summer, and it’s not hard to see why charting the college’s future is challenging.

We need to tread more carefully in our quest to steer ourselves to a sustainable future

The fact that the proposed merger is not going ahead tells us that we need to tread more carefully in our quest to steer ourselves to a sustainable future, and the board of governors agreed a number of measures at our last meeting which should ensure the success of the new, commissioner-led merger process on which we are now embarking.

We are in the process of commissioning an independent review of the 2016 sale of the Wornington Road site to RBKC, which took place before I was brought into the college.

It’s important that the full facts about this transaction are in the public domain because the building is of deep importance to the community and its sale has raised important questions which need to be answered. In parallel, we are working with RBKC to agree terms for the long-term use of the Wornington Road site for future provision.

We are also planning to bring together a new community engagement group to ensure that there is a forum for dialogue between the college and its community.

Although there are statutory requirements for consultation about any future merger, we want the dialogue to go much further than this, to give our community a voice in the wider issues of provision and community services that the college can offer now and in the future.

In all of this, it’s important that we continue to put our primary stakeholders, our learners, at the forefront in considering the future.

Andy Cole

Our new principal Andy Cole brings long experience of FE provision in London and a background in curriculum and quality improvement. Andy’s top priority is driving up standards in teaching, learning and achievement for the students who rely on the college to underpin their future ambitions and career development. His appointment has been unanimously welcomed by the governors, who are already working closely with him to ensure the college can meet the future skills needs of local employers and the community.

KCC is emerging from one of the most difficult periods in its history for both staff and students. Many lessons have been learned and tough decisions taken, but I have been struck by the tremendous commitment that exists to improving the quality and breadth of opportunities available to residents in the area.

It was wonderful to see our recent open day so well attended by young people from across the community and we are more determined than ever to build a further education institution that everyone can be truly proud of.

Mary Curnock Cook is chair of Kensington and Chelsea College

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  1. Jenny Madonald

    As a lecturer with KCC I hoped that the decision to stop the merger would mean we could all begin the job of seeking more imaginative solutions to rebuild the college for our students and the community. It is dissapointing that Mary CC doesn’t appear to share my optimism; Mary’s haste to highlight KCC’s Ofsted grade 3 (paragraph 4) suggests she still holds a negative view of our college. There are so many positives Mary could have chosen to write about to promote KCC rather than give us more bad press which only adds to our damaged reputation and risks our prospects of rebuilding and recruiting.

  2. Kensington and Chelsea (Wornington rd) is truly a true gem, there are not many places left in London that teach such a wide ranch if various forms of art! I studied there as a mature student looking to further my silversmithing skills being a full time mum, I emerged out of KCC as a designer maker and am currently in the process of setting up my own business. The level of support that I was given pushed me to create and I discovered skills that I had never knew I had.
    I do not agree with the unfair negative reports on KCC, for a very poor rated college they produce many talented students that are continuously chosen to win Awards at the most Prestigious Arts and Crafts Museum in the world – The V &A , we always have winners and lots of finalists year upon year!

    The college is a unique teaching establishment with some fantastic talented teachers that obviously have the knack of bringing out the best in British Talent, that would not happen if there teaching levels were so poor!