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College boss heads east

Heather Du Quesnay is to lead a troubled group of English-speaking schools in Hong Kong, reports Katherine Forestier

The head of the National College for School Leadership is moving to Hong Kong to lead a controversial group of British-style schools created in the colonial era.

Heather Du Quesnay has been appointed chief executive and secretary of the English Schools Foundation, overseeing 20 schools catering for around 12,000 children.

She is due to leave the Nottingham-based college in December after five years' service. Her successor at the so-called "Sandhurst for sirs", has yet to be announced.

Estelle Morris, the former education secretary, and Mike Gibbons, head of the Department for Education and Skills' innovation unit, are among the names linked to the pound;149,033-a-year post at the national college.

Mrs Du Quesnay, who declined to disclose her new salary, follows Jonathan Harris, the former director of education for Cornwall, to the posting in Hong Kong.

He resigned in June, just six months after he took the job, saying that the Office for Standards in Education would have classified the English Schools Foundation as an authority with serious weaknesses or at best underachieving.

Mr Harris accused senior managers of wasting money on long lunches and afternoon drinking sessions.

The foundation was set up in 1967 to provide British-style education to the English-speaking community in Hong Kong. Today most of its students are local.

It has been dogged by attacks from government and internal revolt over its leadership during the past two years.

Government funding accounts for about 30 per cent of the foundation's costs. It has been under attack since Arthur Li Kwok-cheung, the Hong Kong education minister, accused it of wasting money.

He earmarked it for cuts as part of a drive to reduce the government's budget deficit.

Hong Kong's Audit Commission is due to report on its cost-effectiveness next month.

Parents and teachers rebelled over the appointment of Mike Haynes, a parent member of the foundation's executive committee who worked in the insurance industry, for what was then a HK$1.92 million a year job (pound;135,000).

This forced the resignation of Jal Shroff, its chairman, when the executive overturned the appointment in February.

Mrs Du Quesnay was approached during a five-month global search for an education leader at national or regional level. The other shortlisted candidate was a senior official with an Australian state education department.

Mrs Du Quesnay said the job was a great opportunity. "I considered applying for it two or three years ago but at that stage it didn't make sense either professionally or personally," she said.

Her initial priorities, she said, would be promoting sharing good practice among schools, and reviewing professional development and communications, including clarifying the foundation's role in Hong Kong.

She could not say if this would be the last job in a career which has included being education director in the London Borough of Lambeth and in Hertfordshire.

"I love my work and want to continue as long as other people think I have something useful to offer," she said.

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