It was deemed to be failing by the Office for Standards in Education in July 1998. Numbers in the 750-place Surrey comprehensive had fallen to around 400; GCSE results were less than half as good as the national average. Inspectors ordered an improvement in attendance, behaviour and pupils' progress.
The Conservative-controlled council decided to invite private bidders to take over the school rather than close it. Bids were invited by the end of the year.
Education Partnership, including the American company Edison Schools Inc; Nord Anglia, the largest commercial educational organisation in the UK; and the not-for-profit company, Centre for British Teachers (CfBT) joined the race.
But the winner was the City Technology College, Kngshurst, Solihull, which made its bid under its non-profit-making wing, 3Es Ltd. The company is managed by Stanley Goodchild, formerly director of education for Berkshire County Council. As head of Garth Hill comprehensive in Bracknell in the 1980s he pioneered business links and technology in state education.
LEAs said the takeover was "an imaginative twinning arrangement" but teacher unions called it a dangerous precedent.
Governors will retain responsibility for running the school after the relaunch as a voluntary-aided school; 3Es will receive a management fee for setting up the school foundation and the governing body.
But 3Es has already run into trouble with employment law as the National Union for Teachers vowed to take up the case of members not offered jobs at the revamped school. Meanwhile, Mr Goodchild is marketing the school in Guildford to fill places.