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Crisis-torn Westminster appoints acting director

Westminster, the Tory London borough and local education authority which fired all its inspectors and most of its senior staff, was this week having to take crisis measures to run its education department.

The director, the only senior executive left with a professional education background, is on indefinite sick leave. Councillors will be asked to approve the appointment of the council's personnel director, Deirdre McGrath, as acting director.

Education chairman Caroline Keen says a formal appointment had to be made because the acting director would have to assume the statutory responsibilities of a chief education officer. She said that although Ms McGrath had no experience of education administration she was good at project management, and the delegation of responsibilities to the schools meant that there was not much need for professional expertise within the department.

"Our main requirement is for someone to carry through a range of projects that are under way or are proposed," she explained.

The director Mrs Dinah Tuck had been on "stress-related sick leave " for the past month.

"It is not certain that she will be returning," said a spokesman.

The borough's heads, who last year passed a vote of no confidence in Mrs Tuck, now say privately that her relations with them improved markedly after the previous chair of education resigned.

They are expected to protest strongly at the choice of her stand-in.

Keith Anderson, chairman of the Standing Conference of Chief Education Officers, said :"It is very worrying if someone without the appropriate professional experience is being asked to head up an education service, even on a temporary basis."

He said that the conference would want to look at the situation jointly with the Society of Education Officers. "It's all the more important because of the greater emphasis that ministers now appear to be putting on the role of the LEAs in improving the quality of education."

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