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Agony aunt Ada has all the answers

Dear Aunt Ada I have a four-year-old child and I understand I am eligible for a nursery voucher worth Pounds 1,100.

The fees for my child's current nursery, the Mayfair Academy for Young Millionaires, are Pounds 10,000 a term. Can I use my voucher to defray these?

Second, how do I set about getting my voucher? I listened to Education Secretary Gillian Shephard's speech in the House of Commons, but I couldn't understand it, and I'm an executive on Pounds 500,000 a year (plus share options).

IVOR FORTUNE Chief executive Ditch-Water PLC You can indeed use your voucher anywhere, Mr Fortune, and the procedures are simple, as Mrs Shephard said.

Send away for an application form to the Nursery Giveaway offer, Easy Street, Bribeswork.

Fill in the form, remembering to sign the section at the bottom which states: "I acknowledge receipt of my Pounds 1,100 gift which I will spend in the private sector if at all possible, and I promise to vote Conservative at the next election."

Mail it to the DFEE (Department for Extra Enticements). They will send you a voucher to be spent on pre-school education, or any family holiday on the Costa Blanca.

Dear Aunt Ada I am a parent trying to understand the test results for 11-year-olds announced recently. The papers said that they showed standards were falling, but I thought this was the first year children had done them.

BEA WILDERED Lilliput You are quite right, Bea. This year's tests represent attempts to guess what a level 4 should look like. Since they have no past, if the tests show that standards are falling, it must refer to the future.

Next year's scores will be higher than this year's, as the imperfections in this first run are eliminated.

According to the unique laws of educational physics, if you compare this year's scores with next year's higher scores, then standards are indeed falling, but in a backwards direction.

When next year's results come out, if the scores are actually lower, standards must also be falling. Whatever happens standards are falling. It's all very simple really.

Dear Aunt Ada I am a senior official at the Office for Standards in Education. Teachers and other people working in education are laughing at what I say.

My helpful and neutrally phrased pamphlet, See the Light, Turn to the Right, has been ridiculed, and whenever I give a lecture people in the audience chuckle.

Can you suggest what I can do to improve teachers' reactions to my speeches?

NAME AND ADDRESS SUPPLIED The best solution to your problem is to try talking out of a different orifice.

Dear Aunt Ada We have just had an OFSTED report that says our assembly is illegal. But I Thought it had all the correct ingredients, a hymn, a prayer and so on.

We even stopped the deputy head playing his guitar and singing a Beatles song during assembly while the inspectors were here. So where did we go wrong?

CHRIS T ANITY Headteacher The law is quite clear on this one, Chris. The Government does not allow Beatles songs in assembly unless the text is changed, so "Money can buy me love", "With a little help from my bank manager", and "We all live in a blue submarine" are all permitted.

Any school facing an opt-out ballot is not allowed to sing "The magical mystery tour is waiting to take you away" because this is deemed to be subversive propaganda.

You must also intone the Government-approved responses during your assembly. The head must chant: "May you teach well no matter how big your class" and the staff must respond: "Yea verily, for class size doth not matter."

Dear Aunt Ada There has been a lot of talk in the press about the problems of teacher recruitment. Can you clarify the true state of affairs?

How many teachers are retiring early, what level of applications are coming in for new recruits, how many extra pupils are coming into school, and what does the future look like?

WORRIED BLUE EYES Teacher Training Agency Early and ill-health retirements have gone up sharply in the past few years. Now, three-quarters of teachers never make it to retiring age.

Applications from trainees are down and since crazy proposals for the funding of teacher training are likely to be introduced soon, many training institutions are pulling out or reducing their intakes.

As some 660,000 pupils reach 18 and quit schooling, about 800,000 children are coming in at the age of five so school rolls increase by 100,000 or more each year.

There should be no teachers by the year 2020 or possibly one teacher left, the last-ever dinosaur with a class of eight million pupils.

Dear Aunt Ada I am supposed to be Secretary of State, but the Prime Minister makes all the decisions about education on the basis of so-called "advice" from right-wing think-tanks. What on earth can I do? I am desperate.

G SHEPHARD Department for Education and Employment Carry on doing what you have done so far, the message comes across very well - hold each official statement at arm's length, wear your glasses on the tip of your nose, then read it out in a mechanical voice as if you know you are talking utter bollocks. Everyone understands.

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