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Glasgow starts at the top

Glasgow's director of education has been appointed to lead a commission to improve the achievements and attainment of the city's children. The aim is to ensure that they are better trained and prepared to take up higher or further education, or enter the workplace.

Ronnie O'Connor's role in leading the commission will be part of his new duties as one of Glasgow's two new executive directors, ranked immediately below the post of chief executive. Mr O'Connor's redesignated title is executive director (education, training and young people).

Bridget McConnell, wife of the First Minister, currently director of cultural and leisure services, is to expand her role, an acknowledgement that cultural and sporting activities can play a general part in social regeneration.

As executive director (culture and sport), Mrs McConnell will deliver a new strategy to provide opportunities for Glaswegians to aim high and achieve their personal best, be it in the arts, voluntary work or in sports and fitness performance.

These moves, announced this week by Steven Purcell, the council's new leader, follow the appointment of Ian Manson, depute director of development and regeneration services, as Mr Purcell's chief adviser.

Mr Purcell, the council's former education convener, said: "From the moment I took on the job as leader, I have emphasised that social renewal and the opportunity for all Glasgow's citizens to reap the benefits from the city's continuing economic boom is at the top of my agenda and that of the council.

"We can only achieve this if the best and right people are given the power and authority, as well as the time, to tackle complex issues and solve difficult problems. In particular, I want our schools to get better in every way, be it exam results, the encouragement of talent and skills or improved attendance.

"The announcement - in particular my move to appoint a commission - shows how serious I am in demanding action from my chief officials and everyone else in the council."

Mr O'Connor said he intended to take lessons from the council's past successes on ground-breaking initiatives to identify ways to improve educational and vocational attainment, and to provide better, more integrated services.

"This is about making a huge impact on the lives of Glasgow's children and, while it is primarily about improving educational achievement and attainment and geared to making our school pupils more job-ready, I see my remit as being far wider," he said.

"I need to identify the issues which affect and impact on achievement and attainment, be it poverty, poor health or difficult family circumstances.

This is a task requiring the attention of all agencies dealing with children in Glasgow. My role is to provide a blueprint that will deliver children's services in a better and more coherent way."

A reorganisation of the education directorate is anticipated following Mr O'Connor's appointment. In the meantime, a council spokesman said, Mr O'Connor will continue to "ride two horses", taking on his new, wider role and continuing his day-to-day duties as education director.

Mr O'Connor currently has two depute directors - George Gardner and Richard Barron - and seven heads of service.

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