ASA Censures Seckford Over Second Misleading Ad

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After trouble with the Advertising Standards Authority last year over improper use of the phrase "outstanding school" despite not having been judged so by Ofsted, Suffolk's troubled education provider, The Seckford Foundation Free Schools Trust, has once again fallen foul of the ad regulator in a ruling published yesterday.

The controversial organisation runs two undersized secondary schools in Beccles and Saxmundham, failed to open a third in Stoke-by-Nayland and is currently battling to open one in Ixworth against a rival bid supported by local parents, primary schools and the Church of England.

Beccles Free School (BFS) in hot water for describing its headteacher, John Lucas, as "a former inspector and Director of Learning for Cambridgeshire". A similarly misleading description appears in a profile attributed to Lucas on the professional networking site LinkedIn.

Unfortunately, Director of Learning for Cambridgeshire County Council is a real post that Lucas has never held.

Suffolk Coalition Opposing Free Schools (SCOFS) argued, and the ASA agreed, that this phrase significantly inflated the seniority of Lucas's previous roles.

In an astonishing display of arrogance, BFS attempted to defend the description with reference to LucasĀ“s two previous roles.

Most recently, Lucas was Vice Principal and Director of Learning at Thomas Clarkson Community College, the worst performing secondary school in Cambridgeshire and 16th worst in the country at GCSE.

Prior to that, he was a General Inspector, Standards and Effectiveness, reporting to a Head of Standards and Effectiveness who, in turn, reported, ironically, to the actual Director of Learning for Cambridgeshire County Council.

In a feeble gesture, BFS offered to slightly change the offending phrase to the equally misleading "Director of Learning in Cambridgshire", a solution the ASA rejected.

In the same ad, BFS also claimed to have passed an Ofsted pre-opening inspection "with flying colours", despite the fact that this is a routine health, safety, welfare and suitability check with only a simple yes/no outcome. The ASA also found this claim misleading.

References:

ASA ruling of 9 Jan 2013

LinkedIn profile attributed to John Lucas

Organisation structure for Cambridgeshire County Council, including Children and Young People's Services and its Director of Learning

News story on Thomas Clarkson Community College's GCSE league table position
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