DfE appoints 93 contractors to deploy ‘advisers’ to RSCs – some previous brokers are among them

Janet Downs's picture
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93 ‘educational specialist contractors’ have been chosen by the Department for Education (DfE) to support the academies and free schools programmes, written evidence to the Education Select Committee reveals. They will focus on three areas: underperforming open academies, the matching of maintained schools with appropriate sponsors and supporting the development and delivery of free schools. They will be available to Regional Schools Commissioners to help with their work.

These advisers replace academy brokers which the DfE says it no longer employs. But nine contracts for these educational specialists have gone to former brokers. Eight* provide just a single adviser but one, Veredus, part of Capita, has 37 available for mobilisation. The written evidence sounds an encouraging note. It says: ‘Where appropriate, an RSC may encourage academies to access support from Teaching School Alliances, National Leaders of Education and other sector-led school improvement in their region as a means to school improvement.’ But statements by RSCs describe their main role as ‘developing academy sponsorship and MATs… opening excellent new provision and by challenging underperformance.’ School-to-school support is mentioned but support appears more often in the context of existing sponsors, MAT expansion, the Government’s ‘ambition’ to open 500 free schools before the next election and encouraging non-academies in a ‘category’ to convert with support of a sponsor.

We have already seen what this support looks like in action. Tim Coulson, RSC for the East of England and North London sent warning letters to seven academies in Norfolk and Suffolk about their GCSE results. None was in an Ofsted category – four had been judged Good. I asked at the time, why bother with Ofsted if results alone are what matters?

This raises another question: is there a conflict of interest when the heads on RSCs’ headteacher boards also represent academy trusts especially if these were appointed and not elected by other heads? Dame Rachel de Souza is an appointee on Tim Coulson’s headteacher board. She is also Chief Executive of Inspiration Trust, an academy chain which runs academies in Norfolk including the Hewett School where the takeover by Inspiration caused controversy. The Guardian found an email by Dame Rachel in which she told Sir Theodore Agnew, Tory donor and chairman of Inspiration, that the Good rating given to Hewett in 2013 had made her feel ‘sick’. Hewett’s downgrading in 2014 paved the way for the school to be taken over by Inspiration. Steven Lancashire, chief executive of Reach2, a rapidly growing trust with 49 primary academies, is also an appointee on the same board. Teachers gathering at Schools Week coffee stand at the SSAT conference (3-4 December) voiced concerns about heads on headteacher boards acting in their own interests. They were also worried RSCs were acting as a ‘shadow Ofsted’ – school leaders were becoming increasingly wary of them. Schools Week admitted their concerns could seem like a ‘ludicrous conspiracy theory’. But it concluded it was ‘impossible to disprove’: ‘The lack of transparency about decisions is irking everyone and blocking trust in the new super-officials’.

SURPRISE APPOINTMENT Lilac Sky Schools Ltd appears on the list of education specialist contractors. The Invitation to Tender document said: ‘Bidders will be high-calibre-contractors with a proven track record in developing and leading outstanding schools and/or multi academy trusts, or those who are able to demonstrate how they have effected rapid and sustainable school improvement’ But Tabor Academy was judged Inadequate when it was sponsored by Lilac Sky who then relinquished control. Lilac Sky’s sponsorship of a new primary school was handed to another trust before it opened in September. The local paper said it was because of Lilac Sky’s ‘poor performance’ elsewhere.

NOTES *These are: School Improvement Solutions Ltd Robert Briscoe Associates PM Impact MG Ions Consulting Kmigisborne Associates Gena Merrett Associates AVT Associates Alan Hewitt Associates

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Guest's picture
Sun, 13/12/2015 - 14:53

Barry

Your initial response stated, "The Reach2 document you quote as so sinister". You go onto state, "What? In my book ‘sinister’ means “giving the impression that something bad or harmful is happening/may happen.” I rest my case. Even you admit in a roundabout way that it is your interpretation of my comments, which is not the same as what I said.

The fact that Universities received state funding for students ignores:

1. That the state did not build or fund the provision of universities
2. That originally students fees were paid from private funds (e.g. families)
3. That the period of means tested student grants and free tuition costs ended in 1998 when Labour introduced the initial £1000 pa fees, which increased to £3000 in 2004 and then the Coalition further increased it to up to £9000 in 2012 (59 originally resisted this and set fees at £6000))
4. From 1998 students whose parents earned less than £23000 were exempt the £1000 fees and those earning between £23001 and £35000 were calculated on a sliding scale.
5. In 1999/2000 student maintenance grants for living expenses were replaced with loans that repaid at 9% of income above £10000.
6. From 2016/17 sees means tested maintenance grants replaced with student loans

It is evident from these key facts that universities have not always benefited from taxpayer funding and the period when they did has come to end. Yes, students receive state funded loans but they contract to repay them from future earnings.

So I repeat that this is simply not the same as state schools built, maintained and funded by the taxpayer.

You cite ARK and Harris sponsored academy trust as having their origins in philanthropy but for me this is a disingenuous red herring. Both organisations entered the academy programme following the significant government inducement of having the title deeds to the schools and associated land transferred to them. Philanthropy:

"Full Definition of PHILANTHROPY

1
: goodwill to fellow members of the human race; especially : active effort to promote human welfare
2
a : an act or gift done or made for humanitarian purposes
b : an organization distributing or supported by funds set aside for humanitarian purposes"

Whereas to table a contribution of between £1-2 million knowing you receive many £millions in return seems to be closer to a no-brainer investment opportunity.

Enter Michael Rosen and his article from 2014:

"The accounts of ARK Academies state that "excess funds" are transferred to the Cayman Islands by a stockbroker which just happens to be owned by ARK owner Stanley Fink. According to ARK's accounts, 60% of their funds are now held in the Cayman Islands where they are managed by yet another member of the ARK group, AMML. Fink says these are "underspends", but surely there shouldn't be an "underspend" in an education budget, or if there is why is this money not being returned to the taxpayer?

So, my question is, if an Academy fails what happens to the assets that it now owns, and what if they have been sold off or the money transferred overseas?

There still seems to be a perception that the Academy process is designed to "improve" education whereas it seems the deeper you dig it is little more than an under-the-counter asset transfer swindle."

http://michaelrosenblog.blogspot.co.uk/2014/03/who-owns-academies-have-w...

Barry Wise's picture
Sun, 13/12/2015 - 16:14

Guest-

Once again your points are mostly wrong.

The state may not have built the ancient universities dating from the middle ages, but it has certainly added to them with new buildings and paid for their renovation and upkeep. It has built many of the newer universities almost entirely alone.

Universities may not have 'always benefited' from state funding (though actually if you count the Crown as the state, they have) but then, neither have schools.

It is by no means the case that - as you put it - state funding for universities has 'come to an end', See:

The Department for Business, Innovation and Skills has today (30 January 2015) issued its annual Grant Letter to the Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE) – confirming that the total funding available to universities is expected to rise, as planned, from £11.1 billion to £12.1 billion in 2015 to 2016.
https://www.gov.uk/government/news/government-outlines-higher-education-...

As for Michael Rosen, he may be very good at taking kids on a bear hunt, but he can't read a set of accounts or a balance sheet. I have already explained to you that the land and buildings of academy schools revert to the SoS in the event of a termination of a funding agreement, so there never has been an 'inducement' of the sort you describe. What's more, the ARK arrangements in the Cayman islands do not benefit Ark trustees or Stanley Fink, they benefit the schools. Ark delivers to its academies around £2m extra funding per year (i.e. above and beyond state funding) obtained by a combination of investment income and charitable giving. The investment fees for the Cayman fund are rebated along with a dividend. That means that state education is being subsidized by ARK, not the other way round. Talk of 'under the counter asset transfer swindles" is plain bonkers.

Guest's picture
Sun, 13/12/2015 - 16:28

Barry

Have an academy surf for their accounts and trust company structures at companycheck .co.uk and

https://www.brownejacobson.com/education/training-and-resources/guides/2...

Guest's picture
Sun, 13/12/2015 - 16:45

I split the answer to avoid 2 web links and the inherent delay.

Before implying that the HEFCE funding is intended for all students I suggest you surf the website http://www.hefce.ac.uk/

Any of the funding that goes toward the Student Loan Company is already covered in my earlier comment regarding claimants contracting to repay their loan as soon as they earn or exceed the threshold.

Guest's picture
Sun, 13/12/2015 - 19:47

Barry - We will have to do the gentlemanly thing and agree to disagree on the inducements issue. That said, I will admit that further surfing has highlighted that the academised schools are handed over on a 125 year lease, which for any business person is a wonderful incentive to optimise ones income from these free assets.

The companies check site revealed the following:

Assets £Liabilities £Cash £Net Worth £
Harris Fed47.5m29.8m31.7m308.8m
Harris Acad. Proj Mgt.468.3k468.3k402.3k1
(Both have the same registered address)

Reach2Ltd11.9m 5.8m 7.3m150.7m
Reach2 Inspiration Ltd158.8k174.5k127.4k - 7.44k
Reach2 Academy Trust 1.5m 1.0m688.1k 8.0m
(All 3 have the same registered address)

AET 59.2m25.4m44.1m427.7m
London AET 4.9m 3.8m 3.1m 50.8m
AET Solutions44.8k29.8k 6.04k 15.0k
(All 3 have the same registered address)

ARK Schools27.9m10.7m13.0m339.5m
ARK Acad. Proj Ltd354k358k 0.0 - 4.0k
(Both have same registered address)


As a former bursar in the independent sector I am well aware of the sums that can be made by renting/hiring out facilities with the money being paid into a subsidiary company's account.

Janet Downs's picture
Mon, 14/12/2015 - 11:02

Barry and Guest - while the early academy academy sponsors were expected to donate money to their academy trusts, the NAO found a 'significant' number reneged on their promise. The Coalition removed the obligation on sponsors to stump up money.

Leaving aside individual trusts and the amounts donated (or not), there's a question over whether charities should top up a state-funded, universal service such as education. It could lead to a two-tier service - schools which attract large funds and schools that do not. And complicated trust arrangements make it difficult to track money and increase the perception of wrong-doing (eg Barnfield Federation, Durand Academies Trust).

There's also the question of who benefits. Individual schools may do but not the system as a whole. There's the possibility of gongs for those who donate money, for example, and positive publicity.

A letter in TLS (4 December) from someone in the States made some interesting points about philanthropy:

1 How much of the charitable giving comes from profits earned by 'creating efficiencies', downsizing or making workers redundant?

2 The wealth of billionaires pledging to give half their enormous wealth to charity (often via Foundations which they themselves run and which can have a disproportionate effect on how, say, a national service like education is run) has increased at the same time.

3 Large donations (in the USA) reduce tax income. These donations can indirectly benefit those who donate. The writer gives an example of Central Park, museums and cultural institutions in New York. These in turn increase property values. At the same time, poorer boroughs 'go wanting'.

Guest's picture
Mon, 14/12/2015 - 14:12

Janet - It's the same in the UK regarding the tax and charitable donations. You are also right to highlight that a lot of philanthropy is motivated by a mixture of altruism, self-interest, and tax breaks. The Zuckerman example is a classic: unless targeting personalised learning is pure coincidence ...

Guest's picture
Sat, 12/12/2015 - 15:40

Janet

"Tim Coulson, RSC for the East of England and North London sent warning letters to seven academies in Norfolk and Suffolk about their GCSE results. None was in an Ofsted category – four had been judged Good. I asked at the time, why bother with Ofsted if results alone are what matters?"

What is worrisome here is that HMCI/Ofsted did not take issue with this. It is clear that within Ofsted criteria not meeting floor standards will trigger their interest if it a regular profile. That is to say, not based on a single year. Thus for an RSC to act in a too heavy handed manner could be seen as undermining HMCI/Ofsted. This gains even sharper edge when considered against the knowledge that the floor standards are set by DFE with the approval of the SoS Educ.

"Dame Rachel ... told Sir Theodore Agnew [in an email] ... that the Good rating given to Hewett in 2013 had made her feel ‘sick’. Hewett’s downgrading in 2014 paved the way for the school to be taken over by Inspiration."

For me this conveys a hint of complicity between the Inspiration Trust, DFE (and / or SoS Educ) and HMCI. Alternatively, it could of course just be a piece of serendipitous coincidence.


"Steven Lancashire, chief executive of Reach2, a rapidly growing trust with 49 primary academies, is also an appointee on the same board"

This trust chain has been openly and shamelessly conducting advertising on LinkedIn to encourage non-academies to join their group. The article was originally published by TES and found its way on to LinkedIn:

https://www.tes.com/news/school-news/breaking-views/schools-can-and-shou...

Janet Downs's picture
Sun, 13/12/2015 - 08:43

'A spokesperson for REAch2 said £135,000 was paid to deputy chief executive Cathie Paine. He said that the chief executive Steve Lancashire is paid £190,000 and is remunerated through the founding academy of REAch2 Hillyfield, where he is executive principal.' Schools Week, June 2015

Janet Downs's picture
Sun, 13/12/2015 - 09:00

Guest - Schools minister Lord Nash also bangs the drum for Reach2:

'REAch2 Academy Trust sponsors the largest number of primary academies in the country. Results in seven of its schools have improved by more than 20% since joining the trust, and across the trust REAch2 schools have improved on average at three times the rate for the national average.'

House of Lords, 3 June 2015

But there's a couple of things wrong with this statement:

1 'three times the rate for the national average' - if the results were low then the rate of improvement would be calculated from this lower base. It's bound to be higher than the national average which contains results from all schools including consistent high performers where the improvement rate by actually be near nil.

2 Most Reach2 academies have been in the trust for just a short time. Its rapid growth has been in the last couple of years. Any improvement of results would likely have built on the work of the predecessor school, surely?

Janet Downs's picture
Sun, 13/12/2015 - 08:32

Guest - one school which didn't choose Reach2 was Dunchurch Infants which decided to remain a Foundation school after considering Reach2 as a sponsor.

Guest's picture
Sun, 13/12/2015 - 09:12

Janet - The Reach2 example is damning evidence of the marketised commercialisation of state education through the Conservative approach to academies.

Goodness only knows what the breadth and depth of the impact will be if TTIP/CETA are approved by the EU without any amendment to either agreement or the insidious ISDS at the heart of each one!

Barry Wise's picture
Sun, 13/12/2015 - 12:38

Guest

I'm not at all sure what you are getting at when you say:

The Reach2 example is damning evidence of the marketised commercialisation of state education through the Conservative approach to academies".

Reach2 is not Starbucks, it is a not-for-profit charitable trust, a civil society institution with the same legal standing as a university, a public museum or an art gallery.

Recently the Institute of Education chose to give up its stand-alone status and merged under the aegis of University College London in a move directly comparable to an academy converter chosing to join a MAT. No one said this was shameless marketised commercialism on the part of UCL!

The Reach2 document you quote as so sinister says:

joining a family of academies can – and should – be a positive, proactive choice. It is not a clinical process that lobotomises and strips out all individuality; it is a process that is about forming long-term relationships that nurture and challenge and, as a result, ultimately are stronger than the sum of their parts.

What's wrong with that?

Guest's picture
Sun, 13/12/2015 - 13:30

Barry

Nowhere have I referred to the Reach2 article as being "sinister" and I must therefore invite you not to superimpose your sense of theatrics onto what I have actually said.

From my perspective your examples/comparisons don't stack up. Universities were not built not are they maintained and funded by the taxpayer. State schools are.

The situation of public museums and art galleries are different again and rather more complex in that many of them have their origins in philanthropy linked to legal agreements that the state would pay for the site and revenue costs. A classic example of this is the Tate Gallery. It is also why there is always such a furore when a government attempts to introduce admission fees. Clearly then state schools are not in this position.

The commercialisation comes in through the Conservative inducement to academy sponsors in that the ownership of the school is transferred to them. Sticking with the Reach2 article while the author rightly speaks of economies of scale through mass purchasing power what he fails to highlight is the fact that the bigger the chain the more income there is for the executives to award themselves huge salaries (see Janet's comments at 08.43 am today). Additionally, the way sponsors structure their trust organisation can lead to surpluses being banked outside the charitable non for profit requirements f the charity commission regulations.

So when I see large chains touting for trade to grow their school base and generate larger surpluses to salt away and/or pay even larger salaries then, yes, I see this as selling off the family silver to private enterprise aka the commercialisation of state education.

Barry Wise's picture
Sun, 13/12/2015 - 14:08

Guest

Nowhere have I referred to the Reach2 article as being “sinister” and I must therefore invite you not to superimpose your sense of theatrics onto what I have actually said.

What? In my book 'sinister' means "giving the impression that something bad or harmful is happening/may happen."

You wrote:

This trust chain has been openly and shamelessly conducting advertising on LinkedIn to encourage non-academies to join their group.

To me the compelling sense of that sentence is that the acts described are intended to be considered bad or harmful.

(If I have got it wrong and you are totally cool with this advertising and regard it as either neutral or a positive boon, then I apologise for the misunderstanding.)

Then you say:

Universities were not built not are they maintained and funded by the taxpayer.

Actually, until very recently universities were almost entirely funded by the taxpayer and even today the taxpayer is still paying a huge whack. The taxpayer directly funds undergrad students from poorer homes, most masters and higher degree students and underwrites the loans of the majority to the extent that many and maybe even most will not have to pay back in full.

But what relevance does this have anyway with regard to whether one 'exempt charity' providing higher education is to be considered any less 'commercial' or 'marketised' than another exempt charity offering secondary education?

Both ironies and non-sequiturs proliferate further in:

The situation of public museums and art galleries are different again and rather more complex in that many of them have their origins in philanthropy

Yep. Just as, say ARK and the Harris Federation have their origins in.....philanthropy.

Then we have:

the bigger the chain the more income there is for the executives to award themselves huge salaries

But the executives, of course, don't (and cannot) award themselves salaries. Their salaries are decided by boards of trustees.

Not to mention:

The commercialisation comes in through the Conservative inducement to academy sponsors in that the ownership of the school is transferred to them.

If you mean the ownership of the land and buildings, this is not generally the case. What normally happens is that the academy trust is given a long lease, but that lease is automatically voided or has to be surrendered if the school closes.

No one gets any assets they can sell and pocket the proceeds.

Which is why all this 'privatization' rhetoric is just rhetoric. An academy school has no more been genuinely 'privatized' than the Natural History Museum or Durham University has.

Barry Wise's picture
Sun, 13/12/2015 - 17:01

Guest

HEFC funding is not intended for students, but it is intended for universities. I understood your position to be broadly that the state does not make a significant contribution to the cost of universities. My case is that it does. HEFC grants to universities in England for teaching, capital projects, research etc this year run to about 4 billion. On top of that is the money the state fronts up for tuition fees, which it may (or may not) get back over the long run of 30 years or so. That means that the state still has to budget for around £12 billion pa at current rates for universities, which it then pays out to organizations that are in the main 'exempt charities' just like academy trusts. No one, to the best of my knowledge, campaigns for universities to be brought under local authority or state control. Indeed, their independence and academic freedom is generally supported. I have never heard any one moan that unis are excessively 'commercialised', 'marketised' or 'privatized' even though the market element, not to mention the commercial exploitation of IP is much greater than anything that goes on in schools.

Guest's picture
Sun, 13/12/2015 - 19:39

Barry - My position was - and remains - that contrary to your position, universities and public museums and art galleries are not comparable with the issues to hand regarding schools and academies.

Universities have never been part of the public/LA domain and your point here is nothing less than a straw man argument.

With regard to the commercial and market aspects of universities I can only say that:

1. they have always marketed themselves to maintain the bums on seats revenue flowing (including Oxbridge fighting for the highest calibre students against other world class institutions)

2. the commercial aspect has risen to the top of the debating pile over the last few years and has certainly stirred articles in the TES HE Supplement, DT, Guardian and even LinkedIn education forums e.g. the impact of higher numbers of non-EU students - who may considerable more than UK students - that it would appear has made it harder to get into some of the Russell Group, dumbing down access requirements to meet targets for state school applicants, and challenges to the increasing number of 2.1s being achieved (first degree grade inflation).

Barry Wise's picture
Sun, 13/12/2015 - 17:42

Guest


I have looked through the Ark accounts. The most recent set is not key word searchable but an earlier set (2009) is. There I found this:

The land on which the individual academies are sited is leased at peppercorn rents. No value has been placed on this land in the financial statements due to the restrictive covenants in the leases.

I think that settles the 'inducement' issue.

Barry Wise's picture
Mon, 14/12/2015 - 08:33

Guest

Hand on heart, do you really think that Stanley Fink (who personally wrote out a £2 million cheque to ARK to pay for improvements at Burlington Danes), or Arpad Busson (who once raised nearly £17m for Ark charities from his friends and clients at a gala dinner) are only in it so they can screw a few bob out of renting the Ark Bash Street gym out to the local badminton club?

Meanwhile, Lord Harris (a fellow Gooner, so he can do no wrong) is estimated to have already given away £100m to charity and sold his villa on the riviera and to give the proceeds to his education charities. He still has a £200m fortune left, is 75, retired........ oh come on, pull the other one.

Janet Downs's picture
Mon, 14/12/2015 - 11:15

And here's an interesting question asked in The Conversation: why is Zuckerberg ploughing billions into 'personalised learning'? It raises a further question which I implied above - how much influence should one very rich individual have over education just because they're in a position to hand over billions? Would it skew the emphasis too far away from teacher professionalism towards one person's beliefs?

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