ONE of the country's most highly-rated education officers has been poached by a private company to take on troubled Bradford as the brain drain from the public sector continues.
Mark Pattison, education director of Blackburn with Darwen, has been appointed managing director of Education Bradford, the division of Serco which runs support services in the West Yorkshire city.
He will be joined by Teresa Whitfield, an assistant director at Hartlepool. She has been appointed director of achievement. Both take up their new posts in January, bringing the number of senior local authority figures to join private companies to at least 17 in the past 12 months.
Mr Pattison has been at the helm in Blackburn for more than four years, moving there from Leeds where he was assistant director. Before that he was the head of the advisory service at Kirklees.
Blackburn with Darwen, a beacon authority, was praised by inspectors earlier this year for its "very high standards of leadership" and good relationships with schools.
Mr Pattison, who was born in London, has been based in Yorkshire for more than 25 years. He was invited to apply for the key government post of director of the standards and effectiveness unit but opted for the Bradford job instead.
Serco was awarded the 10-year, pound;360 million contract to run services in Bradford in July, following a damning Office for Standards in Education report.
The city occupies the bottom slot of the primary league tables and is in the bottom 20 of the GCSE tables, with 32 per cent of pupils achieving 5 A* to C grades. Its schools have been accused of contributing to the "polarisation" of communities which led to riots this summer.
Mr Pattison will head a five-strong team which has the task of hitting targets that many believe are impossible - 40 per cent five A* to C GCSEs by next year and 46 per cent by 2004.
The 50-year-old, who claimed reports that he had negotiated a pound;130,000 package for the job were exaggerated, said: "Bradford is a challenge. The young people need a fresh start and so do the schools. They deserve excellent services, which they have not been getting.
"The targets are ambitious but I am not going to say that they are not achievable."
TRAIL-BLAZERS * high-profile local authority figures taken on by the private sector over the past two years include:
* Ian Harrison, former director of education in Newham, east London, and deputy, Parin Bahl, who now head a team put together by the education services company Capita.
* Paul Roberts, former director of Nottingham, working for Capita as education director in Haringey, north London.
Jenny Cairns, former director in Merton, south London, now working for Capita.
* Two former education action zone directors, Roland Absolom, who headed Leigh EAZ and was assistant director of Wigan LEA, and Mike Thompson, of Bulwell EAZ, Nottingham, who also moved to Capita.
* Vincent McDonnell, former director in Richmond, west London, working for Cambridge Education Associates as director in Islington.
* Graham Moss, former deputy director in Hillingdon, west London, and in charge of Waltham Forest, east London