HADLOW COLLEGE has been given a significant and much-needed boost after receiving a positive monitoring report from education watchdog Ofsted.
The college near Tonbridge became the first in the country to be placed in educational administration in May after it had ‘completely run out of money’.
The Further Education Commissioner [FEC] said he was ‘genuinely shocked’ by what he found when he paid a visit in February.
He arrived to discover the principal, Paul Hannan, and vice-principal, Mark Lumsdon-Taylor, were on sick leave.
Both were suspended and have since resigned – along with the chair of the board of governors, vice-chair, six other external board members and the clerk.
The agricultural college, which has 2,089 students and 454 staff, is being investigated for financial irregularities.
More than 700 students are aged between 16 and 18, with around 900 adults and 200 apprentices.
‘Leaders and managers at the college are ensuring that the quality of education programmes for learners remains high’
Richard Atkins, the FEC, noted in his report that it was still claiming to be ‘outstanding’ for overall effectiveness and leadership based on an Ofsted report from 2010.
Now Ofsted has praised the interim principal brought in to steady the ship, Graham Morley, for ensuring that the students have not been ‘adversely affected’ by the scandal.
A spokesperson for the college said: “On June 20-21 Hadlow College received a monitoring visit from Ofsted and the results are positive for the college.
“Inspectors concluded that leaders and managers at the college are ensuring that the quality of education programmes for learners remains high.”
The report said Mr Morley, ‘supported effectively by the educational administrators, senior leaders and the advisory group, has made sure that the education of students at the college has not been adversely affected’.
The finding is in keeping with Mr Morley’s stated aim that there should be no impact on teaching and learning.
After he took over, he said: “The financial issues are quite serious, but none are impacting on the students and staff.
“They are at a strategic rather than an operational level. I do think, and I’m very convinced of the fact, that the provision will continue.”
The process of educational administration, being conducted by accountants BDO, is also designed to ensure the students and their courses are protected while an investigation is carried out into what happens at an administrative level.
The Ofsted inspector Andy Fitt found that students value and enjoy their courses, producing written and practical work of ‘good quality’.
He added: “They grow in confidence during their courses. They can say what they have learned and are clear about the skills they are developing.”
He also said apprentices ‘develop the skills, knowledge and workplace behaviours they need to be successful…benefiting from well-planned framework and standards-based programmes’.
The funding of apprenticeships at the college has been a cause for concern, with the Education and Skills Funding Agency investigating money that was paid to the group to provide the schemes, which the ESFA dispute that it was entitled to.
Those with ‘high needs’ were said to be making ‘quick progress with their learning – staff check the progress of these students very effectively’.
‘Staff take great pride in the work they do. They have high levels of confidence in, and respect for the current senior team’
“Teaching and support staff plan carefully to ensure these students develop the social and employment-related skills they need to be successful in their next steps,” the watchdog added.
The report concluded the new management had made a favourable impression on the staff.
It said: “Staff take great pride in the work they do. They have high levels of confidence in, and respect for the current senior team.”
“Leaders and managers have developed their systems to improve classroom performance.
“[They] check and improve the quality of curriculum areas effectively. They support staff well to make changes that help more students to achieve their qualifications.”
This progress was deemed to have addressed concerns about achievement rates for 16 to 18 year olds, with student retention having declined since 2016-17.
‘Substantially more students’ are completing their courses compared to last year after the new management made a raft of changes.
These include better advice to make sure they are more aware of the requirements, regular reports for parents, and identifying the times when students would be most at risk of leaving and introducing ‘inspirational talks’.
Unlike Ofsted’s full reports, which are graded with verdicts such as ‘outstanding’, ‘good’ and ‘inadequate’, a monitoring report does not require a grading.