London schools 'tsar' Brighouse to face many challenges

3rd January 2003 at 00:00
STRIKE threats and an exodus of teachers are among the challenges faced by Tim Brighouse, who started this week as London's first schools commissioner.

On top of this, he keeps being called a schools "tsar", which he considers a bad omen. "I did history, so I know that even the most recent tsars have not fared well," the 62-year-old said.

Professor Brighouse has been charged with raising results across the capital's schools and improving parental confidence, which polls state is lower in London than anywhere else.

His success as Birmingham's chief education officer gives him invaluable experience, but Professor Brighouse faces daunting issues, including:

* Difficulties keeping teachers in London for more than five years because of high house prices.

* Official teacher vacancy rates three times higher than the national average.

* Threats of longer London teacher strikes if unions are unhappy with recommendations by the School Teachers Review Body this month.

* Differing secondary admissions policies in different boroughs, which have been blamed for polarising schools into haves and have-nots.

Professor Brighouse has been criticised for taking on the job part-time, continuing research with London's Institute of Education, and he admits he has little power to overrule the capital's 33 LEAs.

He is expected to work closely with junior education minister Stephen Twigg.

But the pair have already disagreed over London allowances, which Professor Brighouse believes should be doubled.

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