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Anyone for Woodhead's old job?

THE "sits vac" column in the top ranks of education is getting longer by the day - but as MPs and teachers leave for their summer holidays some questions have been resolved.

The Department for Education and Skills says it will advertise in September for a new chief inspector of schools. The department is also looking for someone to head the Standards and Effectiveness Unit, a director general of schools and a director of lifelong learning.

Education Secretary Estelle Morris has at last named her two special advisers - one Labour policy insider and one journalist. Will Cavendish, currently head of policy at the Labour party and a former energy and environment researcher at Imperial College, London, joins Chris Boffey, assistant editor of the Sunday Telegraph, to provide advice and spin.

Mr Boffey, whose wife is a north London primary school head, leaves a career in newspapers, mostly spent on tabloids. He said his brief would be to "make sure no one gets the wrong impression". A Labour supporter, he was offered the job after approaching Ms Morris.

Mike Tomlinson, who postponed his retirement to take over from Chris Woodhead last November, will stay on until a succcessor is found.

Those once in the running are in new or sensitive posts - such as David Hargreaves, overseeing the post-16 reforms at the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority. One option could be to appoint a strong manager from outside education.

The schools director general post has been empty since incumbent David Normington was promoted to permanent secretary. And DFES officials are said to be concerned at a lack of obvious successors to Michael Barber since the standards unit chief was poached by Number 10.

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