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Troubled Hackney gets its new chief

An intensive round of dialogue will mark the arrival of the woman given the task of rescuing Britain's most troubled education authority.

Undaunted, but with a "sober appreciation" of the challenges that face her, Liz Reid intends to be in the hot seat as Hackney Council's director of education in time for the start of the summer term.

Mrs Reid, 50, currently director of education in Edinburgh, will take up her Pounds 85,000-a-year post in the east London borough knowing she has the backing of the Government, its hit squad and local councillors - all of whom approved her appointment.

But she will have to make her mark quickly if the Government is to be persuaded not to take more drastic action in what has been designated in effect the country's first failing LEA.

Hackney has already proved a test bed for Labour's powers of intervention, with the sending-in, first, of OFSTED inspectors and, then, an "improvement team" to tackle years of under-achievement caused by political infighting.

With ministers taking on further powers of intervention and warning local government it remains on trial, Hackney will not quickly leave the spotlight.

Mrs Reid said she planned to embark immediately on an intensive round of meetings with all the stakeholders in Hackney's education system - from officers and headteachers down to pupils. And she said regular dialogue would be a key feature of her leadership.

"My own view is when people have been through a period of great difficulty, there is generally a strong desire to pull together and fight the way forward. Everybody will unite around the need to give Hackney's children the best possible education," she said.

Mrs Reid is Scots-born, but already has a keen appreciation of the problems she faces, as former deputy director of the Inner London Education Authority from 1986-89.

After the ILEA was disbanded, she became provost of the London Guildhall before becoming director of education in Lothian in 1993, taking over Edinburgh's education service on reorganisation in 1996.

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