Former Lilac Sky CEO disputes revised accounts

Former Lilac Sky CEO disputes revised accounts

The co-founder of an academy chain that is due to be wound up has claimed the trust released inaccurate financial accounts to try to “embarrass him”.

Trevor Averre-Beeson resigned as chief executive of the Lilac Sky Schools Academy Trust (LSSAT) in March last year, before its nine schools were handed to new sponsors in July this year.

It is unclear why LSSAT dropped the schools, but it is now known that the Education Funding Agency (EFA) is taking a closer look at the trust’s finances. Payments from the trust to firms run by its founders have totalled more than £1 million in the past two years.

Schools Week also reported earlier this month that the trust had issued a revised set of accounts for 2014-15 detailing additional payments to relatives of Averre-Beeson.

But in a statement issued this week, the former chief executive said the revised accounts contained “a number of omissions and inaccuracies” that he said were an “attempt, for reasons unclear, to maximise embarrassment to me”.

The revised accounts included Averre-Beeson’s daughter receiving a salary of £63,298, which Schools Week understands is disputed as “over-stated”.

Averre-Beeson said he was baffled as to why the accounts were reissued, and insisted all relevant declarations over potential conflict of interests had already been provided to auditors.

“There was no attempt to hide either the payments made to the companies or the salaries of members of my family.”

There was no attempt to hide the payments

He said his school improvement consultancy, Lilac Sky Schools, was invited by the Department for Education in 2012 to set up a trust and sponsor schools after delivering services to councils in Essex and Kent.

But he said to “avoid any perceived conflicts of interest, I voluntarily decided my companies should stop providing services to the trust in 2015”. He then stepped down as chief executive.

The EFA is yet to publish any findings from its investigation.

When approached by Schools Week over why the trust’s accounts were revised, and asked about the allegations of omissions and inaccuracies, LSSAT declined to comment.

Meanwhile, one of Averre-Beeson’s improvement firms, previously named Lilac Sky Schools Ltd, has been rebranded as Henriette le Forestier Schools Ltd.

That company has bought the Virgo Fidelis preparatory school, a private school in Norwood, south London, which has been renamed the Henriette le Forestier preparatory school.

Sister Bernadette Davey, headteacher of the Virgo Fidelis convent senior school, said its junior school had been leased on a 25-year deal to Averre-Beeson.

“The trustees made this decision as we have many commitments and we are sure that the school is in safe hands for the future.”

Averre-Beeson said this was a “new phase in the school’s life”, adding: “We have decades of experience of successfully running schools and look forward to supporting the children, families and staff of the school to the be the best that they can be.”

He said Lilac Sky – through both the private consultancy firm and the trust it sponsored – has run more than 17 schools, many of which has been taken out of a low Ofsted category.

However LLSAT – under Averre-Beeson’s reign – was ordered to hand over one school, Tabor academy, in Essex, after it was placed into special measures in January 2015.

Averre-Beeson, the former head of the school that Tony Blair rejected for his son – Islington Green in north London – has long been an advocate of private firms running schools.

He told The Guardian newspaper in 2012 that for-profit firms were more focused on improving a school than a new head would be, and has said previously it would be “appropriate” for firms to get performance-related bonuses, or fined for failure.