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Troubled Stratford fails to find head

Stratford school, the east London comprehensive dogged by controversy since opting out five years ago, has been unable to appoint a new headteacher. Anne Snelling, who was due to retire at the end of the summer term on an enhanced pension, has been asked to stay on until December.

Governors met this week to re-think strategies for finding a replacement. They are planning to raise the salary, previously advertised at Pounds 38,391 plus London allowance, and to run open days for potential applicants.

Yakub Umer, chair of governors, believed this would help to allay any fears candidates might have, and said: "If people have preconceptions that Stratford is a bad school, they can come in and decide for themselves."

He said exam results at Stratford - the first GM school to fail an inspection by the Office for Standards in Education - were improving and rolls rising, with 136 pupils already signed up for September.

"Whoever comes next has got a terrific job because the school is on the up," said Mr Umer. "The exam rates are rising, rolls are rising and the new head can only shine and take the glory."

When the post was initially advertised in March, 50 people contacted the school and half a dozen applied for the post. A re-advertisement prompted six more inquiries.

"We were not really happy with the candidates," said Mr Umer. "We will almost certainly re-advertise in September, and are hoping now to have someone in post by January 1. I would guess that Stratford's history would probably not help, but I don't think that is the reason why people are not applying. Lots of schools in London are having difficulties appointing headteachers."

The post will almost certainly be high-profile. Mrs Snelling, head for five years, was awarded an OBE three years ago after she fought off attempts by governors to oust her.

Stratford was initially promoted by ministers as an inner-city flagship but proved an embarrassment as it turned into a battleground between Mrs Snelling and the governors, who were eventually forced to resign and apologise.

Two years ago, it became the first GM school to fail an OFSTED inspection after poor exam results and a Pounds 140,000 deficit. It was taken off the failing schools list in December, however.

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