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Newspaper Columns

Times of Tonbridge Column - Hadlow and West Kent College - 21 August 2019

Congratulations to all those who received their A-Level results last week and best of luck to all of those receiving their GCSE results tomorrow! Even if you haven’t got the results you wanted, remember that the world is full of opportunities and there will be something out there for you, even if it might not seem like it right now. 

A special congratulations must also be said to all those who received results from Hadlow College and West Kent College, and a thank you to the dedication, hard work, and reassurance of the staff, despite the turbulence of the last few months. As I’m sure you know, in May this year Hadlow College went into educational administration, the first in the country. Since then, the wellbeing of staff and pupils and the ability to continue without interruption has been a priority and I am pleased that this seems to have happened. Of course, a few months down the line and a lot has changed and the colleges are heading in the right direction.

The Further Education Commissioner, Richard Atkins, has been looking into all of the possible solutions to the problem. It was clear that the ‘Hadlow Group’, which included both Hadlow College and West Kent College, could not continue in its current form and it was therefore decided to put an application into the courts for West Kent College to enter educational administration too. This was accepted by the courts last Friday.

But, contrary to how it might sound, this is a good thing. It is not a new problem – rather, the beginning of a solution. Without the formal ties being broken between West Kent and Ashford, a solution couldn’t be implemented. It was always essential that the link between West Kent and Hadlow College remain as both offered completely different causes meeting a huge variety of needs of local students.

I am delighted that the recommendation from the Further Education Commissioner recognises this and Hadlow College and West Kent College will now join with North Kent College, who have bases in Dartford and Gravesend. The most encouraging news is that they are in good financial health, which should mean long and prosperous futures for Hadlow and West Kent. This then splits up the existing Hadlow Group, as it due to the distance between them it wouldn’t make sense to East Kent to partner with North Kent College. This makes sense. But it explains why West Kent and Ashford Colleges had to be formally broken apart. 

There is still a long way to go before the new structure is fully functional, but I am pleased that the work done so far has identified the solution. Not only that, but we know in Tonbridge that the link between Hadlow College and West Kent College gives us all the options for the type of Further Education students want to pursue. I am grateful for BDO, the administrators and leadership for all of the help they have given, as well as the Further Education and Department for Education staff for listening to the needs of our community. But most of all I am grateful to the staff, students and parents, who have continued to learn despite all of the issues over the past few months.

Georgie Welford