Tate takes up post in bac's birthplace

13th June 2003 at 01:00
Former head of exam watchdog to become director general of the International school.

Warwick Mansell reports

NICK Tate, one of the most recognisable figures in education, is leaving Britain to take charge of the school which invented the International Baccalaureate.

Dr Tate will become director general of the International school of Geneva in September.

The move comes after the former chief executive of the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority left Winchester college suddenly in the spring. In his first interview since stepping down as Winchester's head, Dr Tate denied that rows with the school's governors had precipitated the move, citing only "family reasons". It has been reported that his son Oliver, a former pupil at the pound;16,000-a-year school, had been reprimanded for smoking cannabis and had set light to a car belonging to the television journalist Martin Bashir.

The International school, a private day school with fees of up to pound;10,200 a year and which serves the city's diplomatic community, its multi-national companies and a large minority of Swiss and French locals, will certainly be quite a change of scene for Dr Tate. At the age of 59, he said it would also be his last job.

Founded in 1924 by members of the newly-formed, Geneva-based League of Nations, it is believed to be the oldest international school in the world.

It educates 3,400 pupils, of more than 100 nationalities, and is sprawled over three sites, each with its own headteacher who will report to Dr Tate.

"(The post) is more like being the director of a small local education authority, rather than a conventional headteacher," he said.

In the 1960s the school spearheaded the development of the International Baccalaureate, which is taken by some independent schools and a handful of state secondaries in England. The headquarters of the IB are nearby.

Dr Tate said it was ironic, that in his three years as head of Winchester, he had rejected the move to transfer from A-levels to the IB. One reason, he said, had been his reluctance to widen the private and state school divide.

He said: "I felt that if a large part of the independent sector moved over to the IB, that would have emphasised the division between the independent and state sectors, because the IB is not appropriate for most state schools."

The bac, though valued for its academic breadth and rigour, has been criticised as too difficult for lower ability students. But Dr Tate said it had "many strengths" and was ideal for the Geneva school.

The International school is bilingual, but the challenges of working in French will not faze Dr Tate, who is well-read in that country's literature and sits on a high-powered Paris-based advisory body looking at the future of the education system in France.

He and his wife, Nadya, will live 15 minutes' drive from the school, though his wife, he said, would "commute" regularly to Britain, continuing her work as an Open University psychology lecturer.

Peter Wilby, 27

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