Supporting Families
  • banner7
  • banner6
  • banner9
  • banner2
  • banner3
  • banner4
  • banner11
  • banner13
  • banner10
  • banner12
Tuesday, 06 September 2016 13:10

Lilac Sky – New Trustees Condemn Previous Financial Dealings, new Names, and other Matters.

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!…

If you are looking to understand this extremely complex story, I recommend that you start at the first article and work through chronologically). However, you may like to see a Lilac Sky explanation of discrepancies in the accounts, to put it into context:

Statement by Trevor Averre-Beeson

Lilac Sky Schools Ltd set up Lilac Sky Schools Academies Trust (LSSAT) in 2012. For some time, as was originally envisaged and discussed with the Department for Education, Lilac Sky Schools Ltd and its sister company, Lilac Sky Outstanding Education Services Ltd provided central services, training and coaching, and leadership support to LSSAT’s schools under contract.

All services were charged at cost and recorded, publicly documented and reported to the Education Funding Agency (EFA) and DfE. We recognised in 2015, however, that some procurement processes should have been more formal and the governance arrangements between Trust and companies more independent and robust. To avoid further potential conflicts of interest I decided that both companies should stop providing services to the Trust and voluntarily stepped down as CEO of the Trust in March 2015 and as Trustee in May 2015.

More recently we have renamed both Lilac Sky Schools Ltd and Lilac Sky Outstanding Education Services Ltd to avoid any additional confusion with the Trust.

Comment: Surely this can only mean that in the statement in both the original and revised 2015 Accounts which reads: "Following discussions with the EFA and Regional Schools Commissioner and to ensure future compliance with the EFA's Academies Financial Handbook, the above transactions were ordered to cease", signed off by the original Trustees, the Trustees wrongly used the phrase "ordered to cease". 

Lilac Sky Schools Academy Trust
The latest Company House information reports the resignation of Christopher Bowler as Director of Schools and Academies on 31st August, with all the other main Lilac Sky players also having quit in the last year or so. There are two new directors with yet another new Chief Executive, Angela Barry, who is also Chief Executive of Woodland Academy Trust, charged by the Regional Schools Commissioner with re-brokering the nine LS academies, and also a member of the RSCs Headteacher Advisory Body. The other is Nicolette King, also a member of the RSCs Advisory Body, underlining the seriousness with which this situation is at last being taken. None of the other four Directors now appear to have a direct interest in the Trust's affairs, or in education, two being legal, and two business consultants.     
The revised company accounts for 2015, signed off by the new Chairman of the Board, Nicholas Tyler, a Management Consultant appointed to the Board in June, are highly critical of the financial management of the Trust. This includes its failure in the original accounts to list payments to Jane Fielding, the wife (also a Trustee) of the Founder Trevor Averre-Beeson, his two daughters, and yet another company, called Corporate Bespoke Services (previously Trevor Averre-Beeson Ltd). These are identified alongside the listed payments to Lilac Schools Ltd, and Lilac Outstanding Education Services Ltd, both having Mr Averre-Beeson as majority shareholder. An independent reporting accountant also expressed concern that Mr T Averre-Beeson was both the Trust’s internal auditor as well as being CEO of the Trust, representing non-compliance with EFA regulations.

Part of the reason for the deficit over the year is recorded as being the removal by the RSC of Tabor Academy, Lilac Sky's first sponsored academy, Chair of Governors Jane Fielding, from the Trust’s control after it went into Special Measures in November 2014, the Report being highly critical about the Trust's management of the school.  The RSC then took away a new Primary Academy in Chelmsford from LSSAT, incurring significant costs. This all happened before Lilac Sky Advisers were appointed to the RSC to assist him!. There was also spending on planning for two new primary academies in Kent, which were also taken away from Lilac Sky after the Tabor debacle, all contributing to a net deficit of £665,972 for the year. There was also a pension deficit of £1,320,000 for the year. To recover these costs, the Trust introduced a series of cuts to funding of its academies described in a previous article, which inevitably penalises the pupils and, now the Trust is collapsing, will presumably never be recovered.

The auditor also identified potential irregularities in spending, and uncertainty whether any of these amounts are recoverable. ‘Compensation’ payments of £249,107 to 11 employees may not have been in accordance with regulations. An event costing £14,095 is highlighted, which may well have been the 2014 Lilac Sky Awards Evening at Merchant Taylors Hall, a flavour of whose extravagance can be caught here, perhaps a little over the top! Amongst prize winners at the similar 2013 event was Sue Rogers, for her ‘Wisdom’, just a few months before she left KCC as Director of Education Quality and Standards, to become LSSAT Managing Director. At this time Lilac Sky was regarded as a ‘favoured’ Academy group by KCC and was indeed praised by the Corporate Director  of Education for Kent as late as July 2015.  

There are further concerns expressed about the proceedings of the Trust, although I am not qualified to comment on them, although I do wonder about an unrecognised grant income of £700,000 which appears to have then gone out to a debtor. However, a comparison of the two sets of accounts is instructive and makes one wonder how the first set were allowed through. Oddly, at the time of writing the original accounts can still be found via the Trust website, although I have downloaded a copy (just in case)

With Lilac Sky Schools Trust, apparently doomed as it has been forced to discard all its schools by the 1st January, 2017, the Trust website has now been spring-cleaned and has also shrunk dramatically, reducing many of its vainglorious promises and ambitions. Although this is a very recent update, it has seen the removal of any reference about the transfer of any or all academies to other Trusts, and indeed positively glows with the virtues of the Trust.

We ensure that LSSAT academies are safe and welcoming for our pupils and that their learning environment is fun and creative.  We always relentlessly pursue the highest of educational standards.  We flood all our academies with positivity and our core values of courage, integrity and wisdom are instilled into pupils through leading by example - evident in every classroom and corridor visited across our family of academies.

It has even managed to introduce a new section of praise from parents, carers and children! However, I am not sure that all the parents of children at Marshlands Academy in Sussex, Tabor Academy in Essex, or several of the other schools that Lilac Sky supported would agree with these sentiments. One also wonders why, if the academies are so wonderful, the DfE saw fit to remove them from Lilac Sky control.                                                                                          

Education 101 Outstanding Education Services Ltd.
The new Education 101 Outstanding Education Services company website has been greatly slimmed down to a basic outline from the previous expansive site of Lilac Sky Outstanding Education Services, and has expunged any mention of Lilac Sky from what are now just a few pages. Even the history charts the company’s progress from its inception in 2009, as ‘101 Education’, the only link to Lilac Sky being the same URL address as before:
So even news items dating back to 2015 and beyond, feature the achievements of Education 101, before it existed, presumably a simple cut and paste job. One striking item I came across reads:

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.

 This is long after the disaster at Tabor Academy, leading to the removal of the contract for a new Free School in Chelmsford and the cancellation of two new Kent academy sponsorships – surely someone should have noticed? Presumably now the Department for Education has cancelled the contracts of LSSAT to run its nine academies, serious questions are at last being asked about these appointments. Are they still in place?

The stellar list of highly qualified staff, several of whom are identified in my previous articles on Lilac Sky, has vanished and the only two people now mentioned on the website are the founder, Trevor Averre-Beeson and his wife Jane Fielding.

The peripatetic headquarters of the Company, which began in Chelmsford, were going to brand new purpose built premises at Knockhall Academy, but then settled at Thistle Hill Academy, in Minster, Sheppey in July, have now returned to a different address in Chelmsford less than two months later. 

Henriette Le Forestier Schools
I have had a number of enquiries from parents at the Virgo Fidelis Preparatory School in Upper Norwood, which has been sold to Mr Averre-Beeson. It is now to become the Henriette le Forestier Preparatory School, so it is possible that now Lilac Sky is unlikely to be able to acquire more state schools, it is diversifying into the private sector; but which came first, the change of name of the school or the company, is unclear. The reasons for the sale are reported as being current financial difficulties. The school is on the same site as a Convent of the same name, which grew out of a mission that “was  established  in  Upper  Norwood  in  1842…. In 1848 nuns of the Society of the Faithful Virgin came from La Delivrande in Normandy to establish an orphanage, mainly for Irish refugees who had settled in the area in the 1840s. The founder of the Order was Henriette de Forestier d’Osseville, an aristocrat born in 1803 who had established the Congregation at the ancient Marian shrine at La Delivrande in 1831, following a miraculous cure of her sister from a life-threatening illness” (quote from here). 
UPDATE: You will find a message from the new owners of Henriette le Forestier  Preparatory School here. Never knowingly undersold, the new owner records: "I personally look forward to basking in the reflected glory of the children’s success".

Last modified on Monday, 05 June 2017 06:59

1 comment

  • Comment Link Thursday, 08 September 2016 13:04 posted by Dave

    He's just bought Virgo Fidelis Prep School Upper Norwood London under Henrietta Le Forriester Ltd? PETER: I know it is a long article, but look at the foot of it!

Leave a comment

Make sure you enter the (*) required information where indicated.
Basic HTML code is allowed.