The profile of the new permanent secretary at the Department for Education and Employment ("The very model of a modern mandarin", TES, January 12) was appropriately positive. Like many others, I welcome the appointment of someone with his range of talents and experiences and I look forward to working with him.
The brusque summary of his predecessor's time as permanent secretary, however, seems less than fair. Sir Tim Lankester, while at the department, did much to improve communications with schools, local education authorities and higher education institutions, and to recreate the vital sense of partnership that had been lost over recent years. Presenting him simply as an "establishment mandarin . . . (Eton and Cambridge)" misstates his schooling and ignores his achievement at the DFEE, his record of service at the Overseas Development Agency (an excellent position for one of the first Voluntary Service Overseas recruits) and the contribution he brings to the leadership of the School of Oriental and African Studies.
Director of the Institute of Education, and member of the board of trustees of VSO
University of London
20 Bedford Way, London WC1
Editor's note: Sir Tim Lankester attended Monkton Combe School, Bath, not Eton. We are sorry for this error.