West Kent and Ashford College, part of the Hadlow Group, was found to have inadequate financial health in 2017-18 based on the three-year financial plan submitted in January 2019, and in 2018-19 due to the requirement for exceptional financial support, according to the letters from the ESFA, published today.
Hadlow College was also found to be in inadequate financial health in 2018-19 due to its requirement for support. This “continues to put [both institutions] into scope for continued intervention by the FE commissioner team, working alongside ESFA colleagues as appropriate”, the letter went on to say.
Meanwhile, Hartlepool College of Further Education has also been served a financial health notice to improve, due to the ESFA’s assessment of the college’s financial record for 2017-2018. This brings the college into scope for referral to the FE commissioner for an independent assessment "of the college’s capability and capacity to make the required changes and improvements within a reasonable period of time".
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'Inadequate' financial health
Hadlow Group hit the headlines in February, when Graham Morley, former principal of South Staffordshire College, was appointed interim principal following the suspension of the group’s principal and deputy group principal. The chair of West Kent and Ashford College also resigned.
A spokesman for Hadlow Group said the two colleges "were served with financial notices to improve on 12 March". "This is in relation to the previously documented FE commissioner intervention into the colleges, following concern around their long-term financial health."
Darren Hankey, principal of Hartlepool College of Further Education, said: "Of all of the wonderful services which comprise the nation’s public sector; further education has arguably borne the brunt of austerity measures since 2010. It is important to highlight that this disappointing judgement of the college’s finances is retrospective – it relates to the college finances in 2017-18. During this year, the college engaged positively with the ESFA and the FE commissioner’s team, and they were both aware of college’s financial position."
He said the college’s plans for 2018-19 highlighted "growth in key areas of work such as the college’s work with school-leavers and apprenticeships, for which the college currently sits on an 'outstanding' Ofsted grade".
Mr Hankey added the financial plan for 2018-19 had been judged as good by the ESFA. "At this juncture, the college is on target to hit planned targets," he explained. "The college can assure its students and key employer partners that an unwavering focus on providing a quality education will be paramount."