Brighouse sidekick to continue 'can-do' ethos

IT takes a brave man to follow in the footsteps of Birmingham's legendary chief education officer.

During his nine-year reign, Professor Tim Brighouse has been admired by teachers, inspectors and the Government as he dramatically turned around England's largest education authority. But Tony Howell, who has been Professor Brighouse's deputy for the past six months and has now been appointed as his successor, believes he is up to the challenge.

Mr Howell's 30-year career in education includes demanding leadership roles in Wiltshire and Derbyshire, as well as teaching in a special needs school and working for an English-speaking education network in Hong Kong.

"There will not be another Tim Brighouse," says the 51-year-old Mancunian. "But what I am telling headteachers in Birmingham is that the "can-do" approach that now pervades our schools, and that was highlighted in our recent Office for Standards in Education report, will not suddenly disappear with him.

"Through his inspiration, it has become ingrained in heads, teachers and departmental support staff and it would be a disappointing legacy to Tim if we didn't build upon it."

One of six children growing up in a working-class Manchester family, he is every bit as passionate as his predecessor about providing the same educational opportunity to youngsters regardless of their background and culture.

While Professor Brighouse made enormous headway in raising standards in Birmingham's 659 schools, exam results are still below the national average and Mr Howell believes there is plenty more to do.

Improving pupil behaviour and special education needs provision are top priorities, as well as developing a closer relationship with other council departments, including social services and housing, to develop adult and early-years learning.

He will also be urging the Government to re-examine the curriculum to focus more on encouraging youngsters to become independent learners.

It was his vision and fighting talk that caught the attention of Professor Brighouse. He said: "It took us a year-and-a-half to find this man and he is pure gold. I've been sharing an office with Tony for the last six months and he has all the right values, good judgment and a sense of humour. He is a man who gets things done."

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