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Saturday, 15 January, 2000, 01:40 GMT
Super-head for first privatised authority

classroom Islington's schools must meet tough exam targets

The director of a top-performing education authority is to head the first "privatised" local authority schools service.

Vincent McDonnell has been appointed director of schools services in Islington, north London, where Cambridge Education Associates Ltd (CEA) has signed a 11.5m-a-year contract to run support services for schools.

Mr McDonnell is currently chief education officer in the London borough of Richmond upon Thames, which has consistently been placed near the top of exam league tables for education authorities in England.

CEA, a small educational consultancy, won the contract after the government ordered Islington to contract out its services.

candidate Richmond schools have high exam records
The move followed followed one of the most critical reports ever made about an education authority by Office of Standards in Education (Ofsted) inspectors.

Seven of the Labour-run borough's 70 schools - which have 25,000 pupils - were declared "failing", and a further seven identified as having "serious weaknesses".

Last year, only 23.3% of pupils in the borough achieved five good GCSE grades, while the national average was 44.4%.

One of Islington's most famous former residents, Tony Blair, rejected the borough's schools for his children.

CEA is to receive a 600,000 annual management fee to run services including school improvement, personnel, finance, payroll, governor support and special educational needs.

But it faces financial penalties if Islington schools do not meet tough exam targets.

'Challenging standards'

Islington's own director of education, Andy Roberts, left his position recently to move to a similar post in Wokingham, Surrey.

The borough has appointed a temporary replacement, and is looking to recruit a permanent new director, who will manage its under-five, youth and library services.

Mr McDonnell, who will take up his post in April, said he was "delighted" at his appointment.

"CEA's clear aim is to work in partnership with Islington ... to help them achieve the challenging standards they have set themselves.

"I am confident we can make a difference for the young people of the borough."

School Standards Minister Estelle Morris said: "We have worked closely with Islington Council to make sure the contract focuses on the key outcomes of high standards and better schools- and guarantees high quality services in pursuit of those ends.

"It will bring about a step change in the standards of education and achievement in Islington."

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See also:
26 Nov 99 |  Education
Private firm to run Islington's schools
15 Nov 99 |  Education
Warning for failing authorities
24 Jun 99 |  Education
Islington given details of education privatisation
18 May 99 |  Education
Council prepares for education privatisation

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