A LIFESTYLE management firm that organises stag parties and books tables at exclusive restaurants for celebrities has won a pound;3 million Government contract to provide a professional helpline service to schools.
Headteachers will be able to telephone or email the TenUK service for information about running their schools or assistance in finding service providers.
The Key went live this week and will have 1,000 schools as clients by the start of 2008. Already heads are asking for help with recruiting, teaching responsibility payments and advice on wireless networks.
One school asked for help raising funds to fix its leaky hall roof.
Advisers provided a fundraising letter and tips for liaising with the local tennis club and businesses.
The Training and Development Agency for Schools and National College for School Leadership will extend the service nationwide if the pilot is successful.
The National Association of Head Teachers and the Association of School and College Leaders expressed surprise that the contract was awarded to a company with no direct education experience.
The services that TenUK provides for its wealthy or busy clients, who include the Michelin-starred chef Tom Aikens and fashionista Alison Chow, are wide-ranging. It has provided one client's son with coaching for his Cambridge University interviews and delivered toasters to students whose parents worried they might be starving. It has also arranged a tantric sex tutor for a failing marriage, sourced a bargain-priced engagement ring and advised on where to go for fertility treatment.
Just as they help celebrities and business high-flyers with personal tasks for which they are too busy, so too would they help heads with their professional "to do" lists.
Alex Cheatle, TenUK's founder and chief executive, said: "We will not be saying to schools, 'You have to do this, that or the other.' We will be saying, 'What do you want to do and how can we help?' It isn't about lifestyle management. It's about knowledge management."
The Key promises to help school leaders save time and money and solve problems. In a brief initial test with 35 schools, senior managers made 900 requests for assistance with tasks.
Fergal Roche, a TenUK advisor with 19 years' experience as a teacher and head, said one head had been delighted after his support manager quickly answered his question before his meeting with a local authority official.
Assistants at The Key will not provide advice on legal, contractual or disciplinary matters, but they will refer headteachers to a lawyer or other appropriate supplier.
This is not the firm's first public contract. It runs a helpline for the Greater London Authority, helping residents make their homes more environmentally friendly with insulation, energy-efficient light bulbs and wind turbines.
Famous TenUK customers have publicly endorsed the service, which costs Pounds 100 to pound;300 a month. Tom Aikens said he delegated personal arrangements such as travel, cars and home improvement to his lifestyle manager at TenUK because of the company's "fantastic contacts and huge clout".
Alison Chow, co-founder of the fashionable Notting Hill emporium Coco Ribbon, said TenUK helped her to organise her personal life so that she had more free time to plan her company's future.
TenUK clients include the fashionista Alison Chow and Michelin-starred chef Tom Aikens. The company's services have included arranging a tantric sex tutor for a failing marriage, sourcing a bargain-priced engagement ring and advising on where to go for fertility treatment. Photographs (clockwise from left) Jupiter Images; Camera Press; Getty; Alamy
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Our restaurant contacts span the UK and the globe so we are able to organise the best lunches and dinners for our members wherever they may be.
We have unique access to priority booking at three-quarters of the world's Michelin starred restaurants.
We can make recommendations for a night out in any city, using local knowledge gleaned from feedback from other members. Our team also frequently attend new openings and tastings so recommendations are sharp and current.
Over the years we have created our own 'little black book'. We have built relationships with the people who run the hottest clubs and bars, which allows members and their guests to get into the world's best clubs, and our buying power means we can secure better value than touts to shows, gigs or sporting events. Our reputation, contacts and buying power in the ticket market reduces the risks inherent in buying from unreliable sources or from the internet.