Hackney Downs 'hit squad' has three options

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The Independent Online
The Hackney Downs Education Association sent in to sort out the failing boys' comprehensive has three options - keeping it open with a programme to improve it, closing it, or giving it a new status, possibly that of a city technology college.

Richard Painter, the man who will head it, is the driving force behind the establishment of the company-sponsored ADT City Technology College in Wandsworth, south London, which opened four years ago in redundant school buildings.

He is chairman of its governors and chief executive of the ADT Education Trust, having joined the company in 1987 from a job as chief executive of a local authority.

He is also chief executive of Industry in Education, a group launched nearly two years ago to represent a wide range of businesses. It works with the Government, contributing to educational debate and seeking to improve the quality of students for employment.

Yesterday, he said of the three options open to the association: "We are independently minded". Widespread consultation would take place within the school and the wider community before a final recommendation was made to the Secretary of State by the end of October. It would be "in the best interests of the students".

Mr Painter will be paid pounds 250 a day for the job, which will put him into the school for two or three days a week. His children went to state schools and he was a parent-governor while his children were young.

Also on the committee is Professor Michael Barber, head of the Centre for the Study of Successful Schools at Keele University and one of the architects of the Labour Party's Fresh Start policy, which suggests giving a failing school a new name, new head, new governors and some new staff as a means of improving it. He was chair of Hackney's education committee until the early 1990s.

Other members are James Aston, Education Group Manager of the accountancy firm, Kidsons Impey, Bryan Bass, an experienced independent school head who is retiring next year from the City of London Boys School and Richard Davies, former Chief Education Officer of the London borough of Merton. The committee secretary is Joan Farrelly, former chief inspector of the London borough of Hammersmith and Fulham.

To date more than 80 schools have failed their inspections but no others are thought to be close to having an Education Association sent in. The Secretary of State for Education and Employment expects schools to implement workable improvement plans or move to closure within two years of inspection.

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