EXCLUSIVE: School run by defunct Lilac Sky bailed out with £508k DfE grant

Janet Downs's picture
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Lilac Sky trust given  £122k by DfE in same financial year

Lilac Sky Schools Academies Trust (LSSAT) became notorious in August 2016 when its Financial Notice to Improve identified ‘significant irregular financial and governance practice over a number of years’. 

In the same financial year, 2016/17, LSSAT received £122,414.57 from the Education and Skills Funding Agency (ESFA) to stabilise its finances, Freedom of Information shows.  And Knockhall Academy, an LSSAT primary academy with capacity for 502 pupils, was awarded an eye-watering grant of £507,546.79 in financial support.  

Wide-ranging concerns re LSSAT found in early 2016

An ESFA review of LSSAT In February 2016 ‘identified a number of serious and wide ranging concerns around governance and compliance’, The Department for Education’s Report and Accounts for financial year 2016/17 said.   Advances totalling £537,000 made to LSSAT were deemed unrecoverable and wiped off.   But these were advances not grants.  It’s not known whether the grants were clawed back when LSSAT was eventually dissolved or similarly wiped off.  

Was the £508k grant deficit reduction?

It’s unclear why ESFA awarded such large amounts to LSSAT in the financial year after concerns about the Trust were raised in February 2016.

A possible answer (although I’m speculating here) is that the half-a-million for Knockhall Academy was to wipe out a deficit.  This would make the academy more attractive to a multi-academy trust (MAT) takeover. 

Deficit reduction isn’t included in published academy transfer costs.  These show £50k was paid to The Woodland Academy Trust when Knockhall Academy transferred to Woodland on 1 January 2017 for a ‘fresh start’.  

Services to LSSAT from company linked to CEO didn’t need tendering, LSSAT claimed

LSSAT’s CEO and Accounting Officer until May 2015 was Trevor Averre-Beeson who supports running schools for a profit.   He also said those running a school should be fined if it didn't improve.  However, he didn't put this into practice after Tabor Academy became inadequate when run by LSSAT.

Averre-Beeson was also CEO of Lilac Sky Schools Ltd which provided services for LSSAT. These services didn’t need to go through tendering because they were ‘unique’, LSSAT’s accounts* for year ending 31 August 2014 claim.

 LSSAT’s 2015 accounts were deemed ‘defective’

Revised accounts* for LSSAT for year ending 31 August 2015 replaced those submitted earlier by trustees holding office on 17 December 2015.  Averre-Beeson had left in May 2015 but trustees remaining in December included Averre-Beeson’s education partner Jane Fielding.  She eventually resigned in April 2016.  

The first report was deemed ‘defective’ because, among other things, related party transactions hadn’t been adequately disclosed.   Averre-Beeson disputed the revised accounts.  

Private school taken over by Lilac Sky Schools Ltd closed after just six months

A private school taken over by Lilac Sky Schools Ltd (now renamed Henriette Le Forestier Schools Ltd) closed after just six months.   HLFS is now in the process of liquidation.  

Glossy website sells Beeson’s new consultancy

Averre-Beeson, as Trevor Beeson, now runs Education 101 with ex-LSSAT trustee Jane Fielding.   Its glossy website puffs up Beeson’s consultancy.    Education 101, the site says, was founded in 2009.  But company records* show it wasn’t incorporated until 22 November 2017, a couple of months after LSSAT finally expired.

 

This is the third of a series of articles about grants given to academies in 2016/17 to stabilise their finances.  The other two are here and here.

 

*All company records from Companies House

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