Festive presents ...
For her: OFSTED Home Inspection Kit. Inspect your own school with this official Office for Standards in Education kit. Numerous absolutely pointless checklists enable you to compute whether you have more or fewer felt-tipped pens than the national average, and whether your board dusters are "generally satisfactory".
Price Pounds 5,000 (Pounds 30,000 for large-school version). Life-size inflatable lay inspector with fixed gormless smile, Pounds 2 extra. Off Rip Products Plc. ("Anyone can do it." Arthur Dewhurst, Butcher.) For him: Ron's Firefighting Pack. Deal with any emergency with the Ron Dearing Firefighting Pack. Includes flameproof suit, fire extinguisher, axe and bucket of water. Just the thing for dealing with difficult governors, awkward parents and the many complete prats you meet in education nowadays.
Price Pounds 8.99, SCAA Enterprises. ("It soon put me out." J Patten.) For the kids: Bendi-Flexi Minister Doll. Talking doll with red nose and revolving bow-tie. Press button and voice says, "Standards of GCSE are going down, so I'll ask HMI to report on the matter", or "Standards at GCSE are going up, so I hereby claim credit for our league table policy". Hours of fun as the kids show it to their teachers and give them a nervous breakdown as they try to make sense ofit all.
Price Pounds 29.99, Bullshit Bendi Toys Inc.
Spoof Inspection Letter. Realistic letter on official-looking OFSTED stationery. It states: "Dear . . . , OFSTED will be bringing a team of 12 inspectors to inspect your school on . . ."
All the kids have to do is type in the name of their headteacher and school, and a date about two days ahead. Then they just sit back and watch the head rush off to the staff toilets in a panic. Pounds 1.99 Sado-Maso Stationery. ("Laugh? I nearly widdled myself." K Clarke.) Books and games: The Good Excuse Guide. This comprehensive guide brings together some of the best apologies for a lousy position in your local exams league table. Contains classics such as, "We was robbed", "It was a year of two halves, Brian", and "Come next year's league tables we'll be there or thereabouts", as well as novelties such as, "The caretaker was off that week" and, "Yes, but if you use statistical adjustment to partial out the effects of social class, we actually came top".
Price Pounds 11.99, Whinge Books.
English-Bakerspeak Bilingual Dictionary. Two-volume dictionary with thousands of entries, both Bakerspeak-English and English-Bakerspeak. Contains all the essential terms, including "deliver the curriculum", "fulfil attainment targets", and "scrymzzxx your breeglebums". Pounds 99.99, British Bakerspeak Society. ("Mr Baker makes exceedingly good marshmallow." Mr Kipling.) Opt-out: Exciting board game for several players. Throw dice to see who opts out. Successful player gets best chair, a box of chocolates and a free meal, while other players have to sit on the floor and eat broken glass. It's unfair, but it's a hell of a laugh. Pounds 25,000,000 (and that's just for technology projects). Grant-Maintained Gizmos Unlimited.
Christmas Entertainment: Carry on Testing (At a multiplex cinemaschool all too near you). Pure British traditional (nowadays) farce with all the usual "Carry on" team. Kenneth Williams as Colonel Fruitcake, Hattie Jacques as Felicity Rotating-Eyeballs, and Sid James as Harry Fastbuck are put in charge of educational testing with hilarious results. Kenneth Williams sets the papers, Hattie Jacques translates them into Old Norse and Sid James tries to sell them to a gullible American tourist. Teachers' boycott ensues. Pure escapist fantasy; it could never happen in real life.
Last Quango in Paris (Boxing Day, Eurosport). Tells how a desperate Government, having stitched up every public body in Britain, has to go abroad to set up new quangos.
Your questions answered: I recently found a line from Keats as the motto in a Christmas cracker. Does this demonstrate that Government policies are working and we are becoming a more literate nation? No. It demonstrates what happened to those Government Anthologies of Great English Literature, gleefully shredded by English teachers after their boycott of key stage 3 testing.
We haven't got much money in our school, so is it worth buying a few National Lottery tickets before Christmas?
The odds against winning the top prize in the National Lottery are about 14 million to one. The likelihood of the Government giving you any more money is about a million billion to one. Go and buy the tickets now.
Are there many turkeys about this Christmas? Yes, but they're not ministers any more.