The first to-be-privatised comp has already recovered. Warwick Mansell reports.
KINGS' Manor, the school which is to become Britain's first "privatised" comprehensive in September, has well-behaved pupils, excellent teachers and effective leadership, inspectors say.
The conclusions of an Office for Standards in Education inspection, which showed signs of a spectacular turn around in the school's fortunes since it was pronounced failing two years ago, will intensify controversy over its transfer to private management.
Kings' Manor, in Guildford, Surrey, is to re-open as Kings College, under the management of 3Es Ltd, a non-profit making private arm of the City Technology College, Solihull.
But the report, which does not mention involvement by 3Es in Kings' Manor and confirms it is to come off special measures, suggests the school is already on the road to recovery.
Her Majesty's Inspectors found that the school's results remained very low, even by comparison to schools serving a similar intake. But substantial teaching improvements were now having a real impact on pupil progress.
It also heaped praise on Bob Allan, a former inspector who became the school's acting headteacher a year ago.
Colin Caswell, county secretary for the National Union of Teachers, said the report was a vote of confidence in the schools' teachers, only a quarter of whom are staying on at the new school.
Stanley Goodchild, managing consultant of 3Es, said the company had played a role in the succss, by headhunting Mr Allan and helping to introduce an awards scheme to recognise good behaviour.
3Es is to incorporate the "Kings" name in a second Surrey school, which it is to run from September, 2001.
France Hill comprehensive will become Kings International College, a school for 11 to 18-year-olds with the accent on "internationalism, business, industry and the arts".
Meanwhile, Southwark Council is proposing to transfer the management of all of its education services to WS Atkins, the construction project management firm.
In what would be the largest "privatisation" of an authority so far, all of the struggling south London council's education department staff would become employees of WS Atkins.
The company, is a novice in the field of education management, but is recruiting a team of former education officers to head its schools operation. In May, the Government selected it as one of 16 companies with the potential to run struggling authorities.
WS Atkins would take over school improvement and other services including personnel, finance, and information and communications technology by the end of this year. Other services would then gradually be transferred to WS Atkins, provided it met its targets, until it was managing the whole service by 2003.
The current central education services budget in Southwark is pound;25m - substantially more than the pound;11.5 million a year contract Cambridge Education Associates signed with the north London borough of Islington.