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Outspoken education officer quits Kent post

Roy Pryke, the high-profile chief education officer of Kent County Council, famously called "deeply lippy" by John Patten, the former Education Secretary, is leaving his post.

Mr Pryke, 56, has decided not to renew his contract which expires next March. He is expected to go by the end of the year. In a letter to Kent's headteachers he said: "In case you are wondering, I do expect to carry on doing something in the world of education - it's too exciting to bow out completely - but just what remains to be seen."

Possibly one of the most outspoken CEOs, often initiating debate in the pages of The TES, Mr Pryke courted controversy, particularly in his opposition to grant-maintained schools.

Kent was certainly a challenge. It was historically one of the lowest spenders in education - a fact generally attributed to half its schools deciding to become grant-maintained. Those that remained under the aegis of Kent County Council, however, remained loyal to Mr Pryke.

Mr Pryke continued to be a thorn in the side of the Conservative government on the subject of nursery vouchers. He said they would not increase parental choice and warned (a prophecy that came true) that the policy would lead to four-year-olds being pushed into primary schools earlier.

He is highly respected among his colleagues and has been a leading light, holding the chair of the Association of Chief Education Officers in 1996-97. This group - despite Mr Pryke's alleged lippiness - maintained a good working relationship with Gillian Shephard and her officials at the Department for Education and Employment.

Mr Pryke is known to be "personable and likeable" with a reputation for occasionally being too quick on the draw. He will be missed in Kent.

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