Bunhill: Tough lesson for consultants

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The Independent Online
AS John Patten, the Education Secretary, is discovering, there is no more emotive subject than the schooling of children. And I hear that a group of City high- flyers is learning the hard way that education doesn't always react to textbook management.

Talisman is the management consultancy that tried to sort out the mess at Maxwell Communications and National Home Loans and is pitching to restructure Brent Walker. Started as a breakaway from Bain & Co, the US consultancy, it includes among its senior staff such 'ex-Bainies' as Olivier Roux, one-time Guinness finance director and star witness.

Two years ago, Talisman, after helping to reorganise Investors in Education, took over the running of its four private schools. Now parents are up in arms over one of them, Beresford House in Bromley, Kent, (right) a prep school catering for 40 children aged five to nine. The parents say funds are so short that the school is locked at lunchtime, leaving pupils to eat in the playground. 'There's a rumour Beresford is going to close at Easter,' one angry parent tells me, 'but we can't get any information.'

Rick Grogan, the effusive American who jointly heads Talisman with David Hoare, admits that Beresford's future is in doubt. They would like to merge it with a larger school nearby, Braeside. 'We do expect to continue to teach children at Beresford House,' he said, 'but our educational team is still discussing the most appropriate and effective configuration for this site.'

Effective configuration? Perhaps the pupils could give their masters a lesson in speaking plain English.

(Photograph omitted)