West Kent makes the grade with boost from Ofsted report

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The college on Brook Street is part of the embattled Hadlow Group, though it is in the process of being taken over by North Kent College.

West Kent and Ashford College [WKAC] asked to be placed in educational administration in August, and its application was accepted by a High Court judge.

The move came after its sister site, Hadlow College, became the first college in the country to go down that route in May.

WKAC underwent a full inspection last year, when two aspects of its service were said to ‘require improvement’ – outcomes for learners and apprenticeships – although it was rated ‘good’ in six other areas.

The watchdog returned last month and found that the college had made ‘reasonable progress’ in all areas under scrutiny.

The Hadlow Group has been investigated by the Further Education [FE] Commissioner and the Education and Skills Funding Agency about financial irregularities.

The FE Commissioner Richard Atkins visited Hadlow College earlier this year and was ‘genuinely shocked’ to find it had ‘completely run out of money’.

The Hadlow Group’s then principal, Paul Hannan, and his deputy Mark Lumsdon-Taylor were both suspended in February.

The chair of the board of governors for West Kent, Paul Dubrow, resigned along with the vice-chair, other external board members and the clerk.

In July Ofsted also inspected Hadlow College and praised the way it had maintained teaching standards amid the difficulties engulfing it.

A statement by the Hadlow Group said: “The focus of the visit to West Kent was to evaluate the progress made in addressing the main areas for improvement identified in the last inspection.

“Inspectors concluded that the leaders and managers at the college have worked closely with departmental managers and teaching staff to improve the provision, which is having a beneficial impact on the learners.”

The monitor Andy Fitt found that more students now stay at the college, complete their courses and achieve their qualifications since last October’s report.

Teachers were praised for giving feedback on work more quickly and effectively, helping students to understand how they can improve.

This was reflected in mathematics, where ‘a far greater proportion’ now achieve grades 9 to 4 at GCSE level than a year ago after their weaknesses were ‘targeted’.

There was also praise for media courses, where easy access to digitally recorded feedback from staff had helped to improve students’ work and led to more distinction grades.

The interim principal, Graham Morley, and senior leaders have restructured the management of apprenticeships, which has led to improvements.

The report noted: “Apprentices value the closer contact they have with their assessors, which helps them understand their progress.”

Employers of business administration and engineering apprentices also value the frequent communication with college staff about the progress of their apprentices.

There are 2,200 students aged 16 to 18 and 650 mature students at WKAC, with around 230 apprentices on a mixture of framework and standards apprenticeships.

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