It is rumoured that a new move has begun to convert Whittington Primary School (WPC) into an academy.
The last attempt ended in failure after parents rebelled.
They felt the school had gone behind their backs to do a deal with the Erudition Schools Trust (EST) and then tried to bounce them into agreeing to it.
They also said WPC managers failed to give them straight answers about their plans for the future of the school and their children.
Later the school announced it had pulled out of the deal.
But it is clear academy conversion remains firmly on the cards. Why is not so clear.
Last September the Coventry-based EST revealed it was being, “wound up”.
That put paid to any chance of WPC trying to rekindle the relationship.
But people are still alarmed that EST was ever considered at all and what that says about the school managers’ decision making and motives.
Were proper checks made?
It seems that if proper checks had been made on EST, and the company’s American connections, WPC should never have gone near it.
There was plenty of information freely available online that should have rung alarm bells.
In October, 2014, EST managing director Karen Mackay told ‘Phoenix’ journalists that US millionaire Ron Packard had nothing to do with the trust
That was completely untrue.
He set up EST and funded it through his Virginia-based online learning company, K12 Inc.
Packard and his senior US executives appointed themselves as EST directors.
The only English person on the original board was John Woodward.
And he was connected to Mike Milken, a US businessman and convicted fraudster who helped Packard set up K12 Inc., in 2000.
Packard also set up the subsidiary, K12 Education (UK) Ltd. (K12 Ed).
Its job was to sell computer-based learning services and products to English schools joining EST.
EST was in effect a pipeline through which British taxes flowed into Packard’s US pockets via K12 Ed.
While the trust was busy recruiting schools in the UK, Packard’s K12 Inc. was facing law suits and court action the US.
It was alleged to have knowingly and/or recklessly suppressed and concealed the truth about its commercial and educational performance.
It seems Packard made a fortune by selling his shares as K12 stock soared in value on his allegedly misleading earnings estimates.
Investors lost millions
Other investors lost fortunes as the shares crashed when the true figures came out.
K12 Inc. had major contracts cancelled amid claims it had increased teacher workloads and lowered standards.
Some educators stopped accepting qualifications the company handed out to students.
Meanwhile, three schools joined EST in the UK.
They were the Charles Coddy Walker Academy, Walsall, the Kingsbury School, Tamworth, and the Queen Elizabeth Academy (QEA), Atherstone
The then QEA head, Anthony Wilmot, who was an EST director, is married to WPC head, Sally Wilmot.
Kingsbury School joined EST in March, 2015, claiming the trust was, “pioneering and progressive”.
But within months school managers were telling parents K12 Inc. had pulled the plug on EST.
That sounded the death nell for the Coventry-based private company, EST, and marked the start of Kingsbury’s search for another academy chain.
And now, yet again, K12 Inc. is facing court action in the States.
Investors allege that between November 2013, and October 2015, the company made false and/or misleading statements about its business, operations and prospects.
The claims cover issues ranging from student numbers at K12 Inc. schools and their academic progress, to the youngsters’ attendance rates and chances of getting into university.
Anthony Wilmot quit his EST directorship last September.
The QEA went on to join the Academy Transformation Trust (ATT).
There was surprise when it was revealed that ATT was the only other academy chain WPC had considered joining.
In 2014, ATT was among more than a dozen academy chains barred from running more schools amid serious concerns over education standards and financial mismanagement.
At the time ATT was running 16 schools.
MPs remain concerned about the government’s academies programme because of the lack of oversight on finances and public accountability.
Many people see it as the privatisation of state education and a chance for business people to make large amounts of money out of the taxpayers.
The now sacked Tory Chancellor, George Osborne, said in his last budget that all schools in England would be forced to become academies.
His plan was dumped following howls of protest from teachers, their unions, MPs, local authority councillors and the public.
Ministers now say the academisation “goal” will instead be focused on schools that are, “clearly failing”.
Why convert to academy?
That makes it unclear why Whittington Primary School should seek conversion.
Head teacher Sally Wilmot has been asked if the school is again in talks with an academy company.
So far there has been no reply.