Woodhead leads £100m schools buyout

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The Independent Online

Chris Woodhead, the first chief inspector of schools and a high-profile critic of Labour's state education system, has acquired his first group of private schools for Cognita, the recently formed private equity-backed business that he chairs.

Chris Woodhead, the first chief inspector of schools and a high-profile critic of Labour's state education system, has acquired his first group of private schools for Cognita, the recently formed private equity-backed business that he chairs.

Financial details of the deal were not disclosed last night but Cognita is thought to be paying between £60m-£100m for the schools being sold by Asquith Court.

Appointed by the Tories in 1994, Mr Woodhead was kept on by Labour after its 1997 election victory but remained an outspoken critic of the bureaucracy and waste in the state system until he left his post in 2000. He has decided to move into private education and form a chain of independent schools committed to "teaching excellence".

Cognita said yesterday it was buying the 18-strong schools division of Asquith Court which will focus on nursery education. The schools bought by Cognita will be for four to 18-year-olds.

The deal is backed by Englefield Capital, the private equity group formed by the former Walt Disney executive Etienne de Villiers, which controls a £500m fund. Englefield's advisers include Paul Myners, the Marks & Spencer chairman, and Lord Robertson, the former Secretary General of Nato and a non-executive director of Cable & Wireless.

Cognita was set up in October and recently bought Quinton House School near Northampton.

Mr Woodhead said: "We look forward to working with teachers and parents to build on all that has been achieved so far.

"Cognita's approach, rooted in the belief that what matters most in any school is the quality of its teachers, is to create a professional teaching environment, forums to promote best practice within the group, ongoing teacher development programmes and a well-constructed curriculum."

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