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Students promised brighter future after K College takeover

The principals of two colleges that have taken over the five campuses of troubled K College in Kent have promised a brighter future for students.

Last Friday, K College’s campuses in Tonbridge, Tunbridge Wells and Ashford were officially handed over to Hadlow College, while East Kent College took control of its Folkestone and Dover sites.

Paul Hannan, principal of Hadlow College, said: “The biggest thing is improving teaching and learning for the students, and we have already started to put in place tried and tested systems and procedures.

“It’s clear that major changes are needed in terms of leadership and management, but staff at K College have been absolutely brilliant in helping us prepare for the takeover.”

East Kent College principal Graham Razey (pictured) said it was a “fresh start” for young people in the area.

“Student numbers have been declining over the last five years but applications are already significantly up for September, so we hope to reverse this trend as soon as possible. Young people are currently travelling out of the area or not engaging in education at all – something we need to change.”   

K College, which has around 15,000 students and more than 800 staff, was formed in April 2010 by the merger of West Kent and South Kent Colleges, but the merger failed and left the college more than £16 million in the red.

The new college inherited the debts of the previous two institutions and a series of financial issues added to its woes. It was rated inadequate by Ofsted last December.

The Tonbridge and Tunbridge Wells campuses will be rebranded as West Kent College and, together with Ashford College and Hadlow College, will form part of the Hadlow Group.

Mr Hannan said K College’s debt was “manageable” thanks to agreements with the government and Barclays Bank, and promised the college would be solvent.

East Kent College said plans are in place to greatly improve the facilities and broaden the range of courses at its two new campuses.

Initial improvements at Dover include upgrading IT facilities and creating a new learning centre and catering area. Eventually it wants to create a vocational space for students studying engineering, logistics and hospitality.

There are plans at Folkestone to reintroduce early-years provision and social care, extend the construction offer to include brickwork and plastering and provide an environment to study creative media.

By September 2015, the college hopes to have a commercial salon and restaurant on site for students to learn in a working environment.  

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