PARENTS at one of Scotland's most prestigious private schools are questioning the appointment of Jackson Carlaw, a former governor, to lead its strategic review, just months after two of his businesses


They are astonished by the development, especially when Hutchesons' Grammar is embroiled in controversy over perceived falling standards and concerns about finances.

The board of governors yesterday defended the appointment, saying it was not only ''grateful'' to Mr Carlaw for undertaking the job, but for using his extensive knowledge for the Glasgow school's good.

Mr Carlaw was joint head of FirstFord, the car dealership with eight franchises in the west of Scotland which was placed in receivership last November, threatening 300 jobs.

He is also a director of Wylies (Automative Services), trading as Auto Contracts, which went into administration in February.

The contract hire and leasing firm is being wound up, and 18 people have lost their jobs.

The latest available documents lodged with Companies House reveal its four directors took (pounds) 163,248 from the company in the year ended 2000, when losses were (pounds) 39,000, compared with more than (pounds) 290,000 in 1999.

A spokesman for Ernst and Young, the administrator, said yesterday: ''It is in wind-down mode, having been unable to sell it as a going concern.''

Mr Carlaw, 44, is a former vice-chairman of the Scottish Conservative Party and remains an executive member.

He was the Tories' failed MSP candidate in Eastwood in May.

He became a Hutchesons' governor in 2001 but resigned in July to take up the new post.

His remit is ''to ensure the school remains at the forefront of modern educational expectations''.

The school refused to say how much he was being paid for the part-time role.

Issues surrounding the appointment are expected to be raised at the forthcoming annual meeting.

Jack Irvine, who has two children at Hutchesons', said: ''It beggars belief that a failed businessman has been appointed to the position.''

He added: ''Other parents I have spoken to are also astonished by the appointment, bearing in mind Hutchesons' has access to some of the finest brains in the west of Scotland, including successful businessmen.''

Other parents, who asked not to be identified, expressed little confidence in the appointment. One said: ''With his track record, I cannot understand how it is considered he will turn fortunes around.''

Mr Carlaw did not respond to questions about his appointment.