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Tuesday, 14 September 2021 05:49

Government  At Last Takes Action against SchoolsCompany (Indirectly)

Updates 14 September: Because of a Technical Issue, this article replaces an identical one previously published on this page. I have now published a second article on my Blog Page, looking at various items of background. 

I first covered the issues at SchoolsCompany in an article back in 2014 as it guided Castle Community College in Deal into Special Measures,  along with Lilac Sky Schools (see below). Both of these companies were highly rated by Kent County Council at the time and had contracts to support several schools. The SchoolsCompany Trust subsequently sponsored Castle as an academy in 2016, renaming it as ‘SchoolsCompany Goodwin Academy’, a pretentious title which went with some of the fantastical schemes hatched up by the trust’s CEO, none of which came to fruition, including the non-existent Royal Academy for Construction and Fabrication in Nigeria.  The Trust collapsed in 2018 after existing for just three short years, reportedly being £8 million in debt, £4 million of which had been run up during SchoolsCompany’s management of Castle Community College.  

SchoolsCompany

The government is finally taking action against four of the previous Trustees of the Trust, after three years investigating this financial scandal, although a Report promised a year ago has still not been published. For some reason, they have evaded a direct intervention, even at this late stage. The arm's length and convoluted procedure explained in SchoolsWeek has the government funding the newly appointed sole current Trustee, a Management Consultant with experience in overseeing dissolved companies, to sue previous trustees in an attempt to recover £2.8 million of 'lost public funds’, the remaining millions having been written off. In the intervening three years, according to SchoolsWeek, Elias Achilleos the former Chief Executive appears to have vanished completely.

SchoolsCompany no longer comes under the government’s Education and Skills Funding Agency which is responsible for academies, having had all of its schools removed, and has amazingly become a charity. BBC SW screened an Investigation in February 2020 analysing the financial affairs of SchoolsCompany, to which I contributed. The programme reported that the police were examining the company’s finances to see if fraud had been committed, but we have heard no more of this. 

My February 2018 article set out the story in some detail as I worked with Janet Downs, then editor of Local Schools Network (an investigative website now sadly closed) to expose the corruption, she focusing on the Trust’s three Alternative Provision schools in Devon, it then being picked up by SchoolsWeek. You will find below a list of most of my previous articles relating to the SchoolsCompany Trust and SchoolsCompany Limited.

The four Trustees being sued were all well paid members of The SchoolsCompany Trust from the start: Elias Achilleos, part-time CEO, who has run multiple organisations including seven with grand-sounding names but all dissolved, according to Companies House; Patrick Eames, executive principal and operations director, who now describes himself as an education consultant and according to Google, until recently was a Director of Prego Services and QCC Healthcare, apparently a management consultancy, although I can find no other reference to him or any educational activity; Everton Wilson, former Finance Director, who has an astonishing profile on Google which begins with his qualifying as a teacher at the age of nineteen;  and Heinrich Zimmerman, described as a Director of Data And Management Information Systems, but who has no other profile I can find. One is left wondering quite what was their combined relevant experience prior to being selected as Trustees of SchoolsCompany.

Aside
From a 2020 article: ‘A fascinating note from the Minutes of SchoolsCompany Board Meeting of March 2018 relating to the controversial new school in Thanet, records that: “This would normally have gone through the free school program but wave 13 of this has been delayed. Kent LA would like to work with SchoolsCompany Trust and the RSC directly on this to fast track the process.”. What an appalling record KCC had with its closeness to both these two disgraced academy Trusts and related companies over the years. That was a close shave for the controversial Park Crescent Academy.
 
Lilac Sky Schools Academy Trust
The 2014 article above, also goes on to look at the management of a small failed Special School, Furness School, under the management of Lilac Sky Schools. It was written as I was becoming aware of the enormous funds being mined by the company through various devices, including the extensive use of expensive consultants. The school finally closed with a deficit of £1.63 million run up over a period of just two years.

My coverage of the Lilac Sky story can be found in the list of articles at the foot of my June 2020, Lilac Sky Academy Trust: Further Financial Malpractice Exposed which contained even more shocking events after it took over and then forced to close a  small private school, having run up debts of nearly a million pounds in eight months, including £150,000 lent to the proprietor and lost.  I still find the high level of proven malpractice almost unbelievable in a state-run academy trust as its nine primary schools, six in Kent, were brought to their knees. 

So what happened next? My September 2020 article: Lilac Sky Schools Academy Trust and SchoolsCompany: Why is the Government resisting publication of Investigations? unfortunately contains no answer. At least we know what action the government is sort of taking with regard to SchoolsCompany. As for Lilac Sky, my FOI produced the response that the investigation had also not been completed, although back in 2019 Schoolsweek was able to report in 2019 from their own FOI that the investigation HAD finished three years after it began, ‘and “following internal processes” it “intends to publish a final version of the report this academic year”’.

Conclusion
There is no financial accountability for academy trusts that collapse due to financial malpractice. Many will have little faith that the SchoolsCompany legal action will bring any justice for all the children whose education has been damaged, teachers whose careers have been ruined, and other innocents caught up in the scandals.

There are too many other such stories published elsewhere in the country, and here of course I have featured the case of Griffin Schools, which runs two primary schools in Medway (as well as one which was taken away from them), as well as other schools elsewhere. Others will have remained undiscovered, as it is in the interest of groups to bury them. I certainly found this out with regard to Lilac Sky as I exposed the scandal and came under considerable pressure to cease my investigation. 

As I wrote in 2020: I have tracked the story ever since, including documenting the unconditional support to LSSAT offered by KCC, whose Chief Education Officer accused me in writing of making 'completely unfounded allegations and scurrilous remarks' about the Council and its officers when my criticisms were at their height. In the event, he was unable to substantiate this as they were all factually based and subsequently, he was forced to describe their conduct as 'outrageous', but only after the government closed LSSAT and its nine schools down. 

Previous Articles on SchoolsCompany
There are also numerous references in other articles, accessible via the search engine.

Disappearing Headteachers: including Castle Community College, Deal,.....  (2014)

Problems in Secondary Schools in Kent's Coastal Towns (2015)

Goodwin Academy – SchoolsCompany Trust on the way out? (2018)

SchoolsCompany Trust - The Goodwin Academy: Founder and CEO resigns (2018)

 

Last modified on Tuesday, 14 September 2021 20:19

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