Sunday Times

Maasdorp’s exit doesn’t add up for maths plan


WHEN Leslie Maasdorp suddenly stepped down as CEO of Advtech a week ago, he left behind a raft of plans he hoped to implement this year, one of which was to launch a maths academy for pupils of publicsect­or schools.

Whether the idea, which would have redirected a large portion of the group’s corporate social investment, led to a falling out with its board is unclear. The idea was among bold moves to bridge relations between private and public-sector schooling and focus Advtech’s energies on the lowfee education segment.

Both parties are sticking strictly to the terms of a confidenti­ality agreement.

Analysts this week speculated about reasons for Maasdorp’s departure. “One can only speculate that it was related to his aggressive strategy to expand into affordable private education,” said Bjorn Ziets- man, an analyst at Avior Capital Markets.

But low-fee private education, where Advtech rival Curro has made considerab­le inroads, remained lucrative and scalable, Zietsman said.

Maasdorp tried to divert attention from his surprise exit. “It’s not in my personalit­y to do erratic, emotional things. Up until the very last moment I was fully committed to run this [company]. I had a five-to-seven year horizon,” he said.

Sandra Saunders, Advtech company secretary, said an agreement was reached with Maasdorp on March 20.

“There was no disagreeme­nt over strategy. We are expanding into the lower end of the mid-fee market.”

A process to replace Maasdorp would be launched soon.

She said details of his exit package were confidenti­al.

Advtech’s school brands include Trinityhou­se, Crawford-Schools and Abbots College. It also owns Rosebank College, Vega and Varsity College.

Maasdorp’s maths academy plan would have resulted in Advtech funding a weekend maths programme for disadvanta­ged pupils instead of bursaries for a few.

Advtech’s pool of just over 100 maths teachers would have been paid extra to teach pupils who would have been transporte­d to venues, fed and assessed weekly.

The group’s CSI budget last year was R84-million, and R82million was spent on bursaries for 7 100 students.

Maasdorp said: “I can guarantee you if we have 1 000 kids from Alex and Soweto we can change those 40% to 50% marks they have into 60%, 70% and 80% marks. Why should the top maths teachers be circulatin­g in these privileged, wellresour­ced schools?”

Referring to Advtech’s plan, Advtech interim CEO Frank Thompson said: “I don’t see any threat or problem with executing the strategy.”

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