Arthur Andersen this week defended its decision to pull out of running Islington's failing education service and said the move did not sound the death knell for future deals in the sector, writes Ben Griffiths. Although an Andersens spokeswoman refused to reveal why the three-way consortium - which also included Birmingham council and education consultancy APS Keele - had withdrawn. She said it would not prevent the firm working in the education sector in future. Observers had regarded the Big Five firm as a front-runner in the competition to take over the north London borough's disgraced education service. The firm's decision to withdraw is expected to arouse speculation that the ground-breaking &£163;100m contract was considered too risky. It will inevitably be viewed as a setback for the government, which has promoted private-sector involvement in state education in ways never previously seen. The Islington contract was the most innovative mutation yet of the policy. Whoever wins it will have control of the borough's 70 schools. 'By not going ahead with this decision, it does not mean this sort of partnership can't work,' the spokeswoman said.
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