Mid Kent College has cynically left 175 students in the lurch 24 hours after they received GCSE results which qualified them for A Level courses at the College. All A Level courses for new students have been scrapped less than two weeks before term starts, at both the Gillingham and Maidstone campuses. Some of the students learned of the decision only after news was published in local media and before they received letters informing them that their career plans had been torpedoed by the College.
According to the College the decision was taken in order to focus more effort on apprenticeships and vocational training. The College had ‘reviewed its curriculum in the face of fewer resources and recent government policy’ although I am aware of no government policies that have changed in recent months to precipitate this change.
And then, there is the remarkable coincidence outlined at the foot of this article.......
The College View
The principal of MKC states": I want to reassure everyone enrolled to start an A-Level course here that we can still help you achieve your ambitions. We offer a very wide range of equivalent level 3 vocational BTEC programmes that support students seeking to go on to university, or into a particular career.”. So that's alright then; the choice of these potential students specifically to specifically follow A Level academic courses as distinct from vocational ones at his College can comfortably be ignored.
He also states: "The College is also liaising with the local secondary headteachers to make sure that students can find alternative places at local schools as quickly as possible if that is their preference".
All this begs the question of when the decision was made? The College Press Release merely states: "After careful consideration of the situation, the College decided to focus on its vocational offer and on growing apprenticeships". A perfectly reasonable decision if made at an appropriate time so that potential students are given fair warning and not treated disgracefully as in this case. It is called planning, and a large budget institution ought to have sorted out such an important decision long in advance of this. If it did, and did not make the decision public, this would be deliberate and cynical misleading of the young people concerned to try and trick them on to courses they had not applied for. However, the press release states that the decision was made "after careful consideration of the situation", a situation that did not arise until GCSE results were published. Although this is the obvious meaning behind the statement, it is barely credible that this carefully considered decision took place in just 24 hours.
Is he not aware also that virtually all secondary schools with sixth forms, non-selective as well as grammar, have increased their admission requirements in terms of GCSE performance in the chase for league table positions, cutting out numbers of potential students well capable of A Level success albeit at a lower level. These will form a considerable proportion of his 157, so they won't in any case be able to fulfil his assurances. Can he not see that the remaining students' preference was to choose the College ethos as against A level offerings at school so why would they want to go back even if qualified. I am not sure what the liaising with the roughly 30 local secondary school head teachers amounts to, although that is an awful lot of liaising between heads of establishments. Surely, for those students who are qualified, if the schools have vacancies, there will be no problem with acceptance even if there may be a certain amount of embarrassment in cases of return to one's previous school.
More likely, a contingency plan was made which depended for example on student uptake when GCSE results were published. In this case it appears that 157 did not meet a threshold figure. Colleges regularly cut individual courses if numbers are not sufficient, so to a bureaucratic mind this is no different.
Kent Council Council
Under new rules young people are required to stay on in education, training or work and training until the age of 18 years. Kent and Medway Councils now have a legal responsibility for what is called the student offering in their Authority areas. One wonders what their response has been when they were consulted about the removal of a whole tranche of that offering.
This is a College operating in business mode solely accountable to its governors, and like many businesses, with little thought for non-customers or in this case potential students who have seen their career plans placed in jeopardy, but no doubt an important lesson learned about trustworthiness. I suspect most of the staff concerned were sessional who can be laid off at no cost, so no problem there either! A successful curriculum subject area, not short of students, scrapped. For why?
If you google 175 Mid Kent College, as well as articles on this topic, you get: "College celebrates fantastic A Level results - Mid Kent College. The 175 students across the Maidstone and Medway campuses tackled subjects ranging from Business to Psychology and Law as well as developing their....", here the preview ends, but sadly we are unable to learn of these fantastic results from what is evidently a highly successful department as the article has been removed. I can't say I blame the college on this one! So why when the replacement numbers are identical is such success trashed?