Principal Paul Hannan and deputy principal Mark Lumsdon-Taylor were suspended when the Further Education Commissioner and the Education and Skills Funding Agency (ESFA) launched an investigation into the financial management of the group, which runs Hadlow and West Kent and Ashford Colleges. Meanwhile Lumsdon-Taylor’s resignation, announced in January, came into effect on 1 March.

Lumsdon-Taylor, formerly a high-profile figure who once boasted: “I do things differently” and spoke of taking “targeted” risks, has remained tight-lipped about his part in events that could have a huge impact on the future of Hadlow College.

A Hadlow spokesman has now confirmed that the group is receiving “exceptional financial support” from the ESFA to ensure it can keep functioning during the crisis.

The group has announced the resignations of Paul Dubrow, Theresa Bruton, Bob McNicoll, Harvey Guntrip and Chris Hearn from the Hadlow College Board of Governors, along with the resignation of Paul Hannan as Principal and CEO. Meanwhile George Jessel and April McMahon have resigned from the board of West Kent and Ashford College.

In the immediate aftermath of the probe into financial concerns, the group has moved to ensure governors can no longer sit on both boards.

The spokesman revealed that Dubrow had been chair of the West Kent and Ashford board while also serving as vice-chairman of the Hadlow board, while Bruton had been chair of the Hadlow board and vice-chairman of West Kent and Ashford. Guntrip also sat on both bodies.

Bruton had originally taken on the interim chairmanship of the West Kent and Ashford Board following Dubrow’s resignation when the ESFA and FE Commissioner launched their investigations.

“During his visits to the college, the FE Commissioner identified some issues relating to the leadership and governance of the colleges within the Hadlow Group, which we have addressed through the appointment of two new chairs of governors and the establishment of two distinct governing bodies for Hadlow College and West Kent and Ashford College, which will operate independently of each other,” the spokesman confirmed.

He added that Interim principal Graham Morley had taken the decision with advice from the FE Commissioner.

Early reports suggested that the Commissioner’s investigation relates to accounting irregularities around land sales, and there have been suggestions that the ESFA is looking to reclaim “significant sums” of money.

The new Hadlow College chair of governors Andrew Baird said he was “really pleased to see the work being done by the staff to ensure the learners are unaffected by the current troubles the college faces.”

He added that he was pleased to have been appointed as interim chair “while we explore options for the future of Hadlow College”. The spokesman said it was “too early” to say what those options might be The FE Commissioner’s report is expected to be published in June.

Professor Martin Doel CBE has been appointed as chair of governors for West Kent and Ashford College and said it was clear it faced “a range of financial and related problems”.

The Hadlow Group spokesman went on: “We are currently receiving exceptional financial support from the ESFA and are working closely with them to ensure we are able to meet all of our liabilities while not compromising on the quality of the courses currently on offer at any of the Hadlow Group colleges or sites.

“Our primary goal has always been to provide our students, and the wider communities we serve, with an excellent learning experience. The successes of our students are testament to this.”