25th January 2008 at 00:00
Sir Cyril Taylor, the ousted chairman of the Specialist Schools and Academies Trust, has made an emotional farewell speech from the job he held for almost 21 years.

With his voice cracking, Sir Cyril told an annual reception for school sponsors held at London's Guildhall that it had been a privilege to serve. Removed from his post partly because of his criticisms of poor teaching, he went out of his way to praise school staff.

But Sir Cyril ended with a quote from Leo Tolstoy, perhaps with reference to the way he was replaced as chairman by a unanimous vote.

He said: "Life is a place of service, and in that service one has to suffer a great deal that is hard to bear, but more often to experience a great deal of joy."

This was followed by a swift change of tone as the stage was taken by Sir James Hill (above) the trust's new chairman.

"Cyril called me that awkward bugger from Yorkshire," he said. "He is also a bit of an awkward bugger himself and he knows it.

"But he has also been around for a long time and made his mark," he added, before praising Sir Cyril's contribution.

The new job had brought increased interest in his business background, Sir James noted.

"Over in America I'm a hero, but here I went through a Department of Trade investigation," he said, with more candour than the room was expecting.

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