Private giant buys into state sector

19th November 2004 at 00:00
The largest provider of private education in England has bought into the state sector for the first time. Global Education Management Systems (Gems), which runs 13 private schools, has taken over 3E's, a non-profit company set up to manage failing state schools.

Stanley Goodchild and Valerie Bragg, the husband-and-wife team who set up 3E's, have sold their business for an undisclosed sum. The move gives Gems influence over three state secondaries run by 3E's, including a multi-million-pound contract for two schools in Surrey. It will also take over contracts to advise more than 100 other schools.

Gems, set up by Sunny Varkey, a Dubai millionaire, has made its name with a no-frills approach offering private education with relatively low fees. A new company, 3E-Gems Ltd has been set up to take over 3E's' existing work and bid for state-sector contracts.

Mr Goodchild, a former chief education officer of Berkshire, said the buy-out would not lead to staff changes at schools run by 3E's.

The acquisition was made as part of a pound;190 million move to expand Gems' UK operation. Mrs Bragg said 3E's' decision to sell was taken to release extra cash to expand its work with failing schools. "We have done lots of good work and helped transform education, this allows us to access extra resources and grow at a faster rate," she said.

Mrs Bragg set up 3E's in 1990 as the commercial wing of the Kingshurst city technology college, Birmingham. It was relaunched in 1998 when she was joined by her husband. In 2002, the non-profit-making firm won a 10-year contract from Surrey council to run Kings international and Kings college schools.

In the same year it was brought in to set up Bexley business academy in Kent and now advises academies around the country. Gems' buy-out also includes 3E's multi-media wing, which produces curriculum software for more than 100 schools, its ICT consultancy and teacher-training division.

Mr Goodchild and Mrs Bragg are joint chief executives of 3E-Gems. A trust is being set up to channel cash back into the education sector. Gems refused to disclose the size of the buy-out deal or the budget that will be made available to the new 3E-Gems.

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