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Top head takes helm at Ramsgate

A headteacher who turned round a struggling Oxford secondary is to take on the worst comprehensive in the country.

Ian Johnson, 44, will become principal of the new pound;27 million Marlowe academy, in Kent in September, when his salary will rise by pound;28,000 to pound;100,000 a year.

The academy replaces Ramsgate school which came bottom of the 2003 league tables with only 4 per cent of its pupils getting five or more top GCSEs.

In January 2003 inspectors said that 44 per cent of the teaching was unsatisfactory and two-thirds of teachers were told to improve or face the sack. A dozen resigned or were demoted.

Mr Johnson said: "The money is a significant jump for me but I'll have to earn the salary I'm sure. It will be a similar challenge to the one I faced at Oxford."

Six weeks after he was drafted into the Oxford school in 1998 the Office for Standards in Education said the comprehensive had serious weaknesses.

Mr Johnson believes his development plan, which addressed the quality of lessons and attendance, saved the school from going into special measures.

In March 2001 Ofsted described the school as rapidly improving and said Mr Johnson's leadership was inspiring.

"It was embarrassing when my leadership was called inspiring. I got a lot of stick for that," said Mr Johnson. "But I like to go somewhere where I can make a difference and there is a job to do."

He visited the estates around the Ramsgate school before applying for the post. "They were not as bad as some of the estates in Oxford," said Mr Johnson. "They were full of working-class people who wanted their kids to do well."

He wants the academy to serve local children. "I don't want children to be bussed in from outside because it is this groovy school.

"But it's not the kids that are the problem, my biggest challenge will be putting together the right teaching team. A lot of the staff at Ramsgate are on temporary contracts and won't be there when I take over."

Nick Hunt resigned as head in May 2003 after taking on the job in September 2002. Mario Citro, former deputy head at Castle community school, Deal, replaced him, and Keith Hargrave, head at Canterbury high, was brought in as executive head.

The Marlowe academy, which opens in September 2005, is being bankrolled by Roger De Haan, the principal shareholder of Saga Holidays, which has offices close to the site.

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