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Tough tasks

Shake-up sparks search for generic managers

two of Scotland's largest education authorities will shortly find themselves fishing in the same unpromising waters to fill their most senior posts.

It follows the decision by Ronnie O'Connor, executive director of education in Glasgow, to take early retirement aged 56, in advance of a major restructuring of services and management posts i`n the council, designed to save pound;1.2 million a year. George Gardner, the depute director, is also leaving as part of the efficiency drive, which will see management costs cut by 10 per cent.

The Glasgow shake-up coincides with the search by Edinburgh City Council to find a new director of children and families to replace Roy Jobson, who retires in June. There are thought to have been less than a handful of applicants for the post, despite the pound;120,000-a-year salary.

This reinforces growing concerns about the lack of interest in senior education posts from quality candidates.

The executive of Glasgow's ruling Labour group discussed the council reorganisation in private on Monday, with final decisions expected by the end of the month.

The new structure is thought to involve a major amalgamation of the education and social work departments under a new executive director. Heads of service will be appointed for education and social work, with day-to-day responsibility for running the education service falling to five area managers.

Although the city will not be the first to combine education and social work, the proposal to merge the two departments in Glasgow, which has the most deep-seated educational and social problems in the country, will be tough.

It is understood all the responsibilities of the two departments will transfer to the new one, in contrast to Edinburgh's re-organisation which broke up social work so only its youth wing joined with education to create the council's children and families department last year.

The move towards greater integrated working could see the most senior posts filled by people with generic management skills rather than specialisms.

This will allow them to move between services, creating a more "corporate"

culture.

Such a trend is controversial in education, but the straw in the wind is evident from the first advert for the director's post in Edinburgh which did not stipulate a requirement for any education background, merely that applicants must have "significant general management experience at a senior level in a large, complex organisation".

The organisational pressures on local authorities have been driven by the Scottish Executive's efficient government strategy to cut costs and the need to fund equal pay for jobs of similar status.

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