You can see the Education Cabinet Committee webcast of September 22nd that contains Mr Leeson’s comments here. The relevant section comprises a question by Mr Roger Truelove, a Member for Swale where two of the schools Richmond Academy and Thistle Hill Academy are situated on the Isle of Sheppey, at minute 39, and a response by Mr Patrick Leeson at minute 42.
Interestingly, the headteacher at the time, who Mr Leeson claimed had done an excellent job and was a specialist in Special Education Needs but actually appeared to have no senior SEN experience if any, abandoned Furness to its fate some weeks before the end of its last term, a very difficult period for the school. This was in order to prepare for her new post at the new Martello Grove Academy in Folkestone. However, she only lasted there for six months before moving to become an Associate Head at a Lilac Sky Jewish primary school in London.
Government awareness that LSSAT was not fit for purpose should have begun when they took Tabor Academy in Essex away from the Trust in 2014 after it had been placed in Special Measures, and blocked them from running a new Free School close to their headquarters. They also served a warning notice to a Sussex LSSAT school to improve standards or face closure the following year.
But apparently none of this was sufficient to dissuade the Regional Schools Commissioner from entrusting the nine new primary academies in Kent and Sussex to LSSAT. Neither did it stop Lilac Sky from winning a contract to support RSCs in eight Regions in November, some time after these controversies.
Education 101 win Department for Education contract to support Regional Schools Commissioners in eight RSC Region
13th November 2015
More good news for Education 101 in that we have been successful in winning a two-year contract with the Department for Education to support the Regional Schools Commissioner in the eight RSC Regions, including London Boroughs. Education 101 will be providing specialist advisers to work with the Regional Schools Commissioners on their Free Schools and Open Academies Programme.
Education 101 Advisers will
- advise open academies on effective improvement strategies;
- assess and advise on Free School/UTC/Studio School applications;
- assist the RSC’s in securing suitable sponsorship solutions for relevant maintained schools.
The above news item was on the Lilac Sky website until recently, with 'Lilac Sky' in place of 'Education 101' (see below), but now appears to have been replaced by one reporting on a new Contract to Support East Sussex schools. Another interesting clash, given that the RSC has now taken three East Sussex Academies away from LSSAT.
It is not clear if the Lilac Sky support of the RSC continued as he was deciding to close down LSSAT or is still operational – the contract was to last until November 2017. 'Lilac Sky Education', one of a number of Lilac Sky companies, an arrangement which has the effect of muddying financial transactions, has now changed its name to '101 Education' perhaps in an effort to hide any conflict of interest.
It is clear from the academy websites that there has been a large turnover of staff as a consequence, Thistle Hill Primary Academy in Sheppey being typical. Ms Vicky Averre (daughter of the founder of Lilac Sky) Executive Principal for a year, and Assistant Director of LSSAT, has quietly vanished over the summer, this being typical of the temporary nature of many posts held by senior members of Lilac Sky and has been replaced by an Acting Principal. In September's school newsletter he welcomed “lots of new teachers and support staff”, suggesting a mass changeover for a school of around 100 children only.
This is going to be a very difficult term for the five schools as they hand over to new Trusts – and what about all the expensive purple uniforms and bespoke purple PE kit with logos. It is difficult to see what interest Lilac Sky has in doing a good job, as seen in the example of Furness above, especially given that the name will die with the Academy Trust at Christmas, Lilac Sky’s other companies having morphed into 101 Education Ltd. and Henriette Le Forestier, Ltd; see my previous article for explanation!