New ISC leader will need all his diplomatic skills

When the new man in charge of the Independent Schools Council starts his job on Monday, he will not be short of work.

David Lyscom takes over as chief executive facing another showdown with the Charity Commission and rising concern about the impact of the economic downturn on private schools.

He also has quite a PR job after the brief and embarrassing reign of the previous incumbent, Chris Parry. The former Rear Admiral lasted just six weeks after he criticised standards in state schools - hardly the talk of unity in which the sector has become well versed. Thus, it can be assumed that Mr Lyscom has been hired as a "safe pair of hands".

The career diplomat was most recently the UK ambassador to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, having joined the Foreign Office more than 35 years ago.

He joins as the ISC continues to take a tough line with the Charity Commission: in the past year it has published several versions of its public benefit guidelines. And Mr Lyscom will not have to wait long to have his say, with the final guidance due before Christmas.

Some reports suggest the credit crunch has already claimed its first victims, with the closure of a small number of schools over the summer. But at this point it is probably too early to see any real impact of the faltering economy on the independent sector.

Previous recessions have taken a couple of years to filter through, with parents sacrificing holidays and new cars before the school fees. But schools will not risk complacency as they wait to see how bad things are going to get.

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