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Private schools head switches firms

The former head of a school run by Global Educational Management Systems (Gems), one of the biggest owners of private schools in the world, has set up in competition with his former employers.

Fergal Roche has joined VT Education and Skills, the latest name to emerge in the increasingly competitive market of profit-making private schools.

For a fee, VT plans to manage "federations" of private schools - taking over the often costly administration duties of existing schools.

The move, it is claimed, will help the schools reduce fees or spend more money on teachers.

Mr Roche, former head of Bury Lawns school, Milton Keynes, one of 14 owned by Gems in the UK, quit the Dubai-based company earlier this year to become business and development director at VT Education, part of the VT Group, whose main interests are shipping and defence.

Its plans for federations of private schools mirror those of Sunny Varkey, the millionaire founder of Gems who claims costs can be kept low if administration is managed centrally.

It is argued that spending by individual schools on curriculum plans, legal cover, personnel issues and building maintenance can be cut if they are shared between more than one school. Gems plans to use this idea to cut fees to as little as pound;3,000 per year in its empire of 200 schools.

The current average private school day fee is pound;7,600.

Mr Roche said: "Private companies have developed considerable expertise in cutting costs and will pare down unnecessary expenditure by centralising as much leadership, management and servicing as possible."

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