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Woodhead's Schools Firm To Add Backers

(c) Sky News 2012

The fast-growing international education provider chaired by Sir Chris Woodhead, the former chief inspector of schools, is preparing to sell a big stake in order to accelerate its expansion.

I understand that Bregal Capital, the controlling shareholder in Cognita, has appointed Barclays (LSE: BARC.L - news) and Morgan Stanley (EUREX: DWDF.EX - news) , the investment banks, to identify one or more new investors to plough new funds into the business.

People close to the situation say that Cognita is likely to seek to raise hundreds of millions of pounds but that Bregal will retain a majority stake in the company as part of any deal.

Cognita, which operates more than 40 independent schools in the UK, is profiting from the growing demand in countries such as Singapore for Western-style education.

It employs more than 3,000 teachers and support staff and is responsible for educating nearly 18,000 pupils.

Sir Chris, who stepped down as the chief inspector of schools in 2000, helped to establish Cognita in 2004.

Now a professor of education at the University of Buckingham, he is a regular commentator in the media on education-related issues.

Bregal, a private equity firm that was previously called Engelfield Capital, jointly owned another education provider called Laureate with KKR (Frankfurt: A1C10P - news) , the buyout giant.

Bregal declined to comment.