This article covers the opening of ten new primary academies, with a further eleven primary school proposals to become academies in Kent and Medway over the past five months.
I also look at academies under pressure because of falling rolls – Swadelands, Hayesbrook, New Line Learning and High Weald; more secondary headteachers lose their jobs – together with the numbers crisis at Kent’s first UTC.
Two new secondary schools are now on the stocks in Maidstone and Dartford, and the number of all through academies for pupils aged 4-19 is doubling to four, with Kent's two St George's CofE secondary schools expanding to take in at primary age.
I also cover a range of grammar school issues in Maidstone, West and North West Kent, and Chatham......
The Radio Five Programme, ‘5 Live Investigates’ has broadcast a programme (available here on i-Player) about Academies and personal financial benefit which includes a strong section on Lilac Sky Schools Academy Trust (LSSAT), at 24 minutes into the programme. Most of the material on Lilac Sky is also reported on in various articles on this website, most recently here. Further comment below, but you can also read a summary of the whole on the BBC website, here.
Lilac Sky is not alone. Currently there are around 5,500 academies. Of these, 113 Academy Trusts are in debt to a total of nearly £25 million. In 2014, eleven academies were given financial warnings, now up to 21 in the past year. 16 of the schools in deficit have been bailed out by £4½ million. At least £700,000 has been written off already. One quote: “Some of those running academies have developed ingenious and legal ways to line their own pockets”.....
And more: Schoolsweek this week exposes the fact that many other academy chains are running large pension deficits, with the pension deficit at REAch2, which runs 55 primaries, rising from £12.6 million in 2014, to £18.4 million last year. They also Report that the Lilac Sky deficit is to be passed on to the new sponsors. How on earth are they going to recover this?
Further Update: SchoolsWeek has now published another article, in which the founder of Lilac Sky claimed the revised LSSAT accounts, see below, were inaccurate and released to try and embarrass him. The article also picks up on issues I have previously raised.
Update: Following publication of my article, SchoolsWeek has also published (page 4) an article about Lilac Sky. On page 2, it publishes an article about cheating by use of impostors, in the Kent Test.
Lilac Sky Schools Academy Trust, responsible for five academies in Kent and four in Sussex, has now published revised accounts for the year ending 31st August, in which the new Board of Trustees disassociates itself from what has gone before:
|Had the trustees been aware of the full extent of the non-compliance with the Trust’s policies on procurement at the date of the approval of the original financial statements, and the remedial action that would be imposed by the EFA as a consequence, it would have cast significant doubt on the trustees’ assessment of the trust’s ability to continue as a going concern.|
This news explains the events I have chronicled in three previous articles, most recently here, explaining the decline and fall of the Trust and its academies. It may well be that after January, the Trust will be quietly closed as the Regional Schools Commissioner has removed all its nine academies and allocated them elsewhere (details in my previous articles). Sadly, it is the students who have been punished over the past year by this mismanagement as amongst other events, most notably Marshlands Academy being given a Warning of closure if it failed to improve its standards, the Regional School Commissioner (RSC) instructed the Trust to claw back some of its financial losses by remedial action. This explicitly meant taking funds provided for education, out of the school budgets to pay off the debts.
Through part or all of the past eighteen months, well after the problems initially emerged, the RSC has been supported by Lilac Sky Advisers, appointed by government to assist him in his duties by overseeing the performance of academies, and opening new ones, surely somewhat of a conflict of interest!
Lilac Sky now appears to have decided its name is toxic and so Lilac Sky Outstanding Services Ltd, name recently changed to Lilac Sky Education Ltd on 1st July 2016, has now been completely re-branded as Education 101 Outstanding Education Services Ltd from 1st September. At the same time, the name of Lilac Sky Schools Ltd also bites the dust and this company is now branded Henriette De Forestier Schools Ltd from 31st August, as its seeks to diversify into private education.
I look at the latest news from each of the three companies, Lilac Sky Academy Trust, Education 101, and Henriette De Forestier, in more detail below - there is plenty of it!…
Updated with more Medway Academy news below, 7 September
Although there has been just one new converter academy and five sponsored academies in the past five months from Kent and one from Medway, there are six new academy proposals in Kent and five in Medway working through. Most of the new or proposed sponsored academies have a failed OFSTED in the last few years, academisation wiping out any previous OFSTED Grade and securing freedom from a fresh Inspection for three years – almost an incentive in itself for some schools, and surely a great relief for the two Local Authorities as their statistics improve overnight.
There are also five Free School proposals, some already approved for 2017 opening as the government Free School programme gathers pace, with three of the proposals coming from religious groups as, in Kent as well as elsewhere, faith schools are seeing their biggest expansion in numbers for decades.
This article also looks at Academy matters in Canterbury, Deal, Folkestone, Gravesham, Maidstone, Medway, and Sevenoaks, and major new developments in the Lilac Sky scandal.
You will find a full list of Academies, Academy Groups, Free Schools and University Technical Colleges elsewhere on this website; together with my previous article on Academy and Free School News (the delay explained by my commitments elsewhere in recent months).
Further details on all these items below…..
TWITTER VERDICT BY WARWICK MANSELL: THE GUARDIAN
Staggering blog by Kent consultant Peter Read on Lilac Sky academies. Real issues here re DfE oversight, it seems. 1:16 pm - 5 Aug 2016
in summary: In the two years to 1st April 2015, over a million pounds was paid by LSSAT to companies run by Trevor Averre-Beeson, founder of LSSAT, for services provided. As a consequence, LSSAT ended the year £665,972 in debt and with a pension deficit of £1,320,000. i.e. It was non-viable. Mr Averre-Beeson was awarded advances of £500,018 for 2013/14 in his capacity as majority shareholder in Lilac Sky Outstanding Services one of the beneficiary companies, although there appears no parallel entry in the record for the 2014/15. There is no suggestion by me of any breach of law.
Probably the biggest of so many questions raised by this debacle is who pays off the apparent near £2 million shortfall in LSSAT? Attempted answer below!
In order to try and reduce the deficit, LSSAT increased the individual academy contributions to central funding for 2015-16 to 7% of their total income, from 5% (many Multi-Academy Trusts only deduct 3%) and made new charges for services to individual academies, both clearly having a direct effect of reducing the quality of education in the schools. In addition it proposed increasing employer contributions to pension provision, presumably because this had been underfunded. It is unlikely that the effect of these actions would be likely to produce a swift removal of the deficit.
Mr Averre-Beeson 'left' the Board of LSSAT in April 2015, and also his role as CEO, to be replaced by Chris Bowler who had previously been Managing Director, However Mr Bowler only lasted a year, and now appears to have been removed from this post by the Regional Schools Commissioner (RSC).
As first reported in my previous article, Lilac Schools Company is still being considered for the running of a new Jewish Free School in North London, so amazingly has not yet lost all credibility with Government. ....
Update: You will find a later article focusing on the salaries of Primary Academy Headteachers here, including the primary head with an annual salary of over £155,000
A recent programme from the Channel Four Dispatches series with the above title focused on leaders of some Academy chains who are taking large sums of money out of the schools under their control, and away from the children's education.
Issues in the programme focused on: huge salaries; what are called ‘related party transactions’ where business deals and services are connected back to the Trust; large expense accounts; and the exclusions of ‘inconvenient pupils’ often with Special Education Needs.
I do not propose to go into detail about the general misuses of public funds uncovered, for you can read them in the accompanying article, but I have previously reported examples of scandals in Kent and Medway in various articles in this website, some referenced again below.
An analysis of some of the more prominent academy chains shows that size and performance bear limited connection with reward, the Head of one single school Academy Trust earning £176,000 last year. This was some £25,000 more than the CEO of Kent’s largest Multi-Academy Trust (MAT) which is responsible for 13 schools, and ten thousand pounds more than KCC’s Corporate Director, whose responsibilities include direct control of some 400 schools together with a wide range of essential services for all children and schools in Kent, who was paid £166,353 in 2015, with just £1,010 in expenses, all on travel.
I have now looked at the accounts of a number of MATs of different sizes, and also Single School Trusts on the Companies House website. The overwhelming majority have their lead officer on a salary of less than £100,000, so the examples below represent a small minority of the total in Kent.
Updated 23 July
Following the news last month that Denise Shepherd, The Trust Chief Executive of the Thinking Schools Academy Trust had been suspended, a letter to parents today (Friday), on what is the last day of the school year for some (why just some?) of the Trust’s schools, announces briefly that she has now ‘decided to leave’ the Trust.
As is normal in such situations, it is likely that a financial deal has been done to avoid an expensive disciplinary action taking place, with a newspaper article in The Times reporting extensive evidence supporting claims of alleged snooping on staff email accounts and doctoring parts of an external inspection report, along with other allegations.
Subsequent to the above, TSAT has published a Press release on its website headed "Thinking Schools Academy Trust Appoints New Chief Executive", with tucked under it further details about Ms Shepherd's departure, as noted below....
Six Kent and Medway schools have now been issued with Notices about standards in the year to 25th March 2016, a disturbing proportion of the 48 Notices issued nationally in that year – hardly an indication of rising standards in Academies. The total number of academies currently stands at 5272. Since my last article in July, which looked at a similarly alarming number of Notices for Kent and Medway schools, four new Notices have been issued. The Gravesend Grammar Schools Academy Trust was issued with a pre-termination notice in November by the Regional Schools Commissioner, in relation to Whitehill Primary School in Gravesham, the second school in the Trust. If it fails to improve or respond appropriately to some tough demands, as set out below, the school will be issued with a Termination Notice, which could lead to the closure of the school. Astor College, Dover, was issued with a Full Warning in December 2015, following its failure to respond properly to a pre-warning the previous year and again has had to answer some tough questioning. Spires Academy in Canterbury was issued with a Pre-Warning Notice in September, especially significant in connection with its relationship with Simon Langton Grammar School. The Future Schools Trust was issued with a pre-warning Notice relating to Cornwallis Academy and New Line Learning Academy, in Maidstone, in November....