Diplomacy and Motown will rule for new leader

The new chief executive of the Independent Schools Council has promised to listen and learn from the state sector, in sharp contrast to the harsh criticisms meted out by his predecessor.

David Lyscom, just three weeks in to his new job, said he wanted to foster a spirit of "positive engagement" with all parts of the education system.

"If you're going to put messages across it helps to have diplomatic relations with all parts of the education system, and that's the way I plan to run it," he told The TES. "The independent sector doesn't have the monopoly on knowledge and best practice, there's a lot we can learn."

Mr Lyscom's comments follow the brief tenure of former chief executive Chris Parry, who left the job having made a series of critical comments about state schools.

Mr Parry described a "cold war" divide between the two sectors and said that the quality of education available in some state schools was "offensive".

But it has quickly become clear that Mr Lyscom, a career diplomat and most recently the British ambassador to the OECD, will not be making such inflammatory remarks. He admits that having spent the majority of his career living overseas he has limited knowledge of state schools here. "I don't have any direct experience of the state sector and I'm not going to have prejudices against it through ignorance," he said.

The Charity Commission will publish its final guidance on public benefit tests for independent schools by the end of the year and Mr Lyscom warned the commission against imposing targets that detract from existing independent and state school partnerships.

The Headmasters' and Headmistresses' Conference, which represents leading independent schools, last year complained about how the ISC was being run.

But Mr Lyscom said he was confident he could make the ISC, which represents more than 1,200 private schools, work effectively for the different independent school associations.

He said his experience as an ambassador had prepared him well to work with groups with different agendas. It also allowed him to show-off his love of Motown hits. He said he regularly quoted their lyrics to an American ambassador at the OECD.

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