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Sunday, 14 July 2019 06:50

Collapse of the Hadlow Group of FE Colleges

I do not normally extend my coverage of news and information about Kent and Medway schools to look at the world of Kent Further Education. But for those not aware of the ongoing scandals most recently swirling about  the Hadlow Group of Colleges, you should know that these dwarf anything seen in school education.

The FE Commissioner has heavily criticised the Group, currently comprising West Kent College, Ashford College and Hadlow College together with six subsidiary businesses (including Hadlow Rural Community School) for a ‘corporate failure of leadership, financial management and governance’ .  The link article is an excellent outline of the Group's structure and the cause of the problems. He has recommended that it be broken up and split between North Kent College and East Kent Colleges Group (which itself recently took over struggling Canterbury College), a small part concerned with animal management going to Capel Manor College in Enfield. A follow up letter from the relevant Minster in the DfE refers to the College as being in a perilous position. 

I have previously touched on these issues here in a paragraph about Hadlow Rural Community School, but which contains a further link to a personal view from an insider about the meltdown at Hadlow College. Much of the information in this article comes from the FE Week website, which has published numerous articles on the related scandals, and from information provided form inside the College and Group. 

FE Week now reports about Hadlow College that ‘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’. The annual salary of the then Principal, Paul Hannan, was £264,000 in 2017, the latest date that accounts are available. The college was placed in Education Administration by the High Court in May.

The Group has now appointed Graham Morley from outside Kent as Interim Principal , who comes with a reputation as a trouble shooter. 

Hadlow Rural Community College
It is not clear how any of this will affect Hadlow Rural Community School which is currently run by Hadlow College on the same site, and itself started life in 2014, being served by a Financial Notice to Improve by the ESFA in its first year of operation, citing multiple failures in financial control. This was surely an early indication of the financial mismanagement of Hadlow College.
 
Further Education in Kent
Wikipedia gives a glimpse at the Monopoly style machinations of Kent Further Education as follows: K College, also known as South & West Kent College, was an English college of Further Education and Higher Education with facilities across Kent, formed in April 2010, by the merger of South Kent College with West Kent College. In 2014 it was split again, between Hadlow College and East Kent College, with West Kent College being re-established and the campus in Ashford becoming Ashford College’. This followed K College being mismanaged and running up heavy debts. The Hadlow Group, not a legal entity but three colleges working closely together, has some 10,000 students, together with six joint ventures and subsidiary operations: Betteshanger Country Park Limited; Betteshanger Sustainable Parks Limited; Produced in Kent Limited; Saplings Rural Nursery & Preschool Limited; Hadlow Rural Community School. I look at further details of the first two of these below.  

The relevant Wikepedia page provides links to each of the separate colleges, which reveals financial mismanagement, large debts being run up and Principal resigning at several of the institutions. These are accompanied by a vast capital investment that has gone into providing shiny new premises at many sites in recent years. This has the added effect that such spending, spread across the country, props up the frequently quoted Government commitment to all education through rising financial investment.

The Kentish Gazette published an article in 2018 outlining events at East Kent College, as it absorbed Canterbury College and parts of South Kent College in Folkestone and Dover. Canterbury College went under and the Principal resigned after the College ran out of money after using cash reserves to build new showpiece buildings, although the takeover was presented as a merger. South Kent had been broken up following financial problems in 2010, the debts being taken over by K College.  

Mid Kent and North Colleges appear untouched by any of these scandals. 

Further Education is frequently described as the Cinderella of the education service. Unfortunately, it appears as a result too often to attract unsuitable leaders with immense powers wielded through financial control, who have forgotten in their ambitions that they are not there on an ego trip or for financial gain but to provide the best possible education for their students. Sadly, whilst many staff in FE Colleges have not had a pay rise for years they have looked enviously on the high and higher salaries being enjoyed (not earned) by their leaders. 

Betteshanger Country Park Limited;  Betteshanger Sustainable Parks Limited

 All the Directors resigned from both companies some years ago, apart from the Principal and vice Principal of Hadlow College, Mr Paul Hannan and Mr Mark Lumsdon-Taylor  (described on LinkedIn as a Business Financier and Corporate Leader with a passion for Rural, Creative Education, Digital and Health),  always a warning that not all is well. This left the Country Park company having income of £695,000 and expenditure of £700,000 in 2017, and a considerable sum owing to creditors. The accounts state that: 'the company is reliant on the support of  Hadlow College, the company's ultimate parent undertaking. Hadlow College has indicated its willingness to continue to support the company and ensure it is able to meet its liabilities as they fall due for a period of not less than 12 months from the period of these financial statements'.  In other words, the Principal and Vice Principal could do what they liked!  It is alleged that the Principal took a helicopter flight to visit the Park. The sole director now is Graham Morley; what a hot potato for him! Mr Hannan is now shown as Ex-director, no occupation. Betteshanger Park is now up for sale, the link providing even more interesting information.  

One could go on, with most of the other companies showing a similar pattern of financial difficulties, in spite of receiving large sums in grants and funding from Hadlow College. What a disgrace. 

What on earth were the Governors of Hadlow College doing to allow this? They were in 2018: Ms T Bruton; Chair ;Mr P Dubrow; Vice Chair; Mr P Hannan; CEO/Principal;Mr B McNicoll;  Ms S Hart; Mr P Morris; Ms L Currie; Mr C Hearn; Mr J Bonet; Mr M Weed; Ms P Worrall, Staff Governor. Most have now departed, leaving to carry the can: Mr Morley; Professor Bonet (Deputy Vice Chancellor, University of Greenwich); Professor Weed (Pro Vice-Chancellor, Canterbury Christ Church University); and Ms Worrall; with the recent additions of Andrew Baird as Interim Chair (an experienced FE Governor being a National Leader of Governance, previously an International Banker); and John Dinnis, a local farmer. 

 

Last modified on Saturday, 10 August 2019 23:07

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