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Portrait of head as a big spender

FOR a moment it seemed almost believable: Gordon Brown's largesse had let schools fling aside cash worries and splash out on a delicious extravagance: a portrait of the head.

Evidence that heads across the country were adorning schools with costly likenesses arrived this week from that august body, the Royal Society of Portrait Painters.

The PR agency for the society's exhibition this year - to be held at London's plush Mall Galleries - eagerly contacted The TES to proclaim that "of 200 paintings and drawings... there are 14 showing th world of education in all it's (sic) glory".

So had the artists - some of whom have painted the Queen and whose fees can approach five figures - offered their services to schools for free?

"No," said the spokeswoman, - and suddenly everything became clear: for this agency, it seemed, the "world" of education was strictly fee-paying. All of the eight featured heads are from leading private schools. Subjects include Oundle's David McMurray, and Gillian Hylson-Smith, of Westonbirt school, near Prince Charles' Highgrove Estate.

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