On March 26, 2012, Michael Gove namechecked his so-called “magnificent seven” academy leaders in a speech to the Association of School and College Leaders. Following the recent suspension of one of them, Schools Week asks: where are they now?
The suspension of an academy chain executive principal amid allegations of gross misconduct has shed light on a list of school leaders once hailed by the former education secretary.
Patricia Sowter, executive headteacher at the Cuckoo Hall Academy Trust, was suspended last week with her husband, trust director Phill Sowter and Cuckoo Hall headteacher Sharon Ahmet.
In a letter to parents, trust chairwoman Andry Efthymiou said the suspensions followed “allegations of gross misconduct that have been made against them, which need to be investigated”.
The Mirror has claimed the allegations relate to exam-fixing and bullying, which has not been denied by the chain. It is said to be putting arrangements in place for the running of its five academies in North London as it is investigated by the Department for Education and Ofsted.
But the revelation has led to questions about the group of seven leaders praised by Mr Gove more than two years ago.
An Academies Week investigation has revealed that only three remain in their posts, while one other is working at a different academy.
Of the remaining three, two have faced suspension — one quit entirely last year — and the third left his organisation amid a cloud of controversy over his payout.
1 – Amanda Phillips
Then: Executive headteacher at Old Ford Primary in Bow
Now: Still there, and the chain claims to be going “from strength to strength”. In September 2014, Solebay Primary Academy became the third school to join the trust with Old Ford and Culloden Primary Academies.
2 – Dame Yasmin Bevan
Then: Executive principal and headteacher of Denbigh High, Luton
Now: Still there, at least until the end of December when she will retire. She became accredited as an additional Ofsted inspector in January 2013 and was appointed as a trustee of the United Learning Group board last November.
3 – Sir Peter Birkett
Then: Chief executive of the Barnfield Federation
Now: An adviser on education strategy and performance after leaving Barnfield in August 2013 with a company car and payouts that the Skills Funding Agency criticised governors for allowing. The Federation has since been split up, with its academies and college going their separate ways.
4 – Jerry Collins
Then: Principal at Pimlico Academy
Now: Principal at John Keats Academy in Enfield. He was appointed in late 2012 as principal-designate of the ARK project, which opened last September.
5 – Patricia Sowter
Then: Executive headteacher of Cuckoo Hall Academies Trust
Now: Suspended amid allegations of gross misconduct along with her husband Phill Sowter and Cuckoo Hall headteacher Sharon Ahmet.
6 – Greg Wallace
Then: Executive principal at the Best Start Federation
Now: Situation unknown following his resignation last November following his suspension over an investigation into IT contracts allegedly handed to his boyfriend.
7 – Sir Barry Day
Then: Chief executive at Greenwood Dale Foundation Trust
Now: Still there as head of the trust, which as of September had 26 academies open in England. He was knighted in the 2014 Birthday Honours for services to education.