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Au revoir, but not yet farewell

Last updated 12 May 2008, created 27 January 1995, viewed 613

Margaret Maden realises the past 18 months of her role as county education officer in Warwickshire have made her unpopular.

A bitter and messy school reorganisation programme, which at one point threatened up to a quarter of the county's primaries with closure, pitted village against village, More…school against school - and many of the campaigners against her.

Her decision to leave the post after six years was made 12 months ago, but she chose to wait to see through the policies she had initiated."I feel I have done most of what I can usefully do in Warwickshire," she said.

"I think my particular management style is very much geared to educational change and reform, and there is a real need, now that we are getting through school reorganisation, to have a period of consolidation and fine-tuning.

"No doubt people will make their own assumptions, but there we are. I have spent the last 20 years in high-pressure management jobs, all with formidable challenges, and have felt for some time now that I want and need a change of gear."

Margaret Maden, who will be 55 in April, has been working in education since 1962, when she took her first post as a geography teacher at multi-racial Stockwell Manor school in Brixton.

She later lectured at Sidney Webb College of Education for mature students, became deputy head of Bicester School in Oxfordshire, and later was for eight years head of Islington Green comprehensive school in London, which she switched from being on the brink of closure and led to become over-subscribed.

In the 1980s as director of the Islington Sixth Form Centre, she was asked to work on the development of a tertiary college system for inner London.

She went to Warwickshire in 1987 as deputy education officer and promotion came in 1989.

In 1991, Ms Maden was invited to join the independent 15-member National Commission on Education, whose report "Learning to Succeed" was published in 1993. She remains a member of the streamlined, five-strong panel of the organisation, whose ideas have been influential in reshaping both Government and Labour education policy.

She remembers two Tory councillors walking out of her interview for the Warwickshire deputy's job.

"I was a woman, with a background in the Inner London Education Authority, and someone had discovered I had had a fling with the Communist Party as a student.

"Two years later when I was promoted, there was little reaction within the authority. No one walked out of that interview."

Now, she says, she wants a break from the pressures of the last 20 years, to concentrate on some of her particular educational interests.

"This is not goodbye to education, it is au revoir. Improving standards in inner-city schools remains a preoccupation of mine and I also hope to write, and do some advisory work and campaigning.

"Central government has treated local government quite shamefully and very foolishly because you cannot, as far as education is concerned, hope to improve standards in 25,000 schools without having an intermediate level of authority. "

Ms Maden said that while some changes in legislation had been effective, others required change or moderation to make them more coherent. "We need to separate the wheat from the chaff," she said.Margaret Maden will be succeeded by Eric Wood, currently Warwickshire's deputy county education officer, from April 1.

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