Skip to main content


Many column centimetres are being devoted to the first 100 days of Blair and Blunkett, but what of Lucy? The Education Secretary will shortly be off to Majorca, leaving the nation's top guide-dog in the care of an RNIB kennel for a spot of R and R and in-service training.

Apparently, Lucy blotted her copybook on her first day in Mr Blunkett's private office. A spy reports: "They had a rubber chicken in there - don't ask me why - she destroyed it; tore it limb from limb. She doesn't show many sparks of character, but that was one of them."

Otherwise Lucy's life is one endless journey, sitting behind train or car seats; sniffing, but not sampling, school dinners; and sleeping. She has formed a close relationship with Barry, the Secretary of State's driver, and stayed with him while Mr Blunkett was in Luxembourg.

Lots of Sanctuary Buildings' staff take her for walks round the block, usually as an excuse for a sneaky fag. Westminster Archives, next door, has graciously allowed Lucy to use its patch of green, providing her minder brings a plastic bag and aerosol freezer. "That makes life easier for getting the, er, waste material into the bag," explained our source.

Show business does not normally faze Lucy. But on a recent Frost programme, she had a nightmare and yelped and squeaked a bit. That's what her master claimed; but maybe it was a comment on the quality of the interview.

Next year Lucy might be allowed to accompany him on business trips and hols if the quarantine laws are changed. If so, she will not only be the best known dog in the land, but the most travelled.

Chief inspector Chris Woodhead appeared to up the stakes in the crackdown on incompetent teachers.

The controversial policy is no longer "naming and shaming" - it has become "naming, shaming and blaming". The phrase received its first airing at CW's address to the Professional Association of Teachers in Glasgow last week.

Luckily, the newly-emollient chief inspector reassured delegates he's agin it. He believes his inspectors are simply "highlighting problems so action can be taken".

Mind you, PAT was lucky to have Mr Woodhead there at all.

Told by a delegate of one pint-sized teacher's trials at the hands of a particularly vicious inspector (she was "too short" to control a class) he revealed his own recent brush with danger when he met a teacher from London's East End.

"She was tiny, but by God she had personality. She would have gripped those kids. She certainly gripped me - by the throat at one point."

Peace was breaking out all over in Glasgow - particularly when Michael Barber took the rostrum.

Delegates might have been forgiven a little nervousness - in the strife-torn 1980s, before becoming Labour's favourite academic, Michael was a long-serving NUT official, a union not noted for its friendly relations with the anti-strike PAT.

But the prof was politeness itself, telling delegates he felt among friends, and reminiscing nostalgically about bearing arms alongside PAT deputy general secretary Jackie Miller in the fight against "the more lunatic elements of" (yes? yes?) "the national curriculum". He was delighted to be at such a "polite" conference, he added.

The new sense of entente cordiale that is sweeping education did not end there. As well as his PAT love-in, Professor Barber repeatedly referred approvingly to that morning's conference speech by Chris Woodhead. He was even kind to the last Tory government - twice!

He still found time for a dig at Nigel de Gruchy though. So that's all right then.

As the fifth Test match gets under way at Trent Bridge, the row over "sledging" rumbles on. This is a euphemism, attributed to Australia, for verbal abuse, or gestures made by fielders to batsmen. The nasty habit has spread to the nation's public schools where there's no longer "a breathless hush in the close".

Marlborough and Radley colleges recently cancelled all sporting fixtures following a spat when Radley fielders were accused of sledging and Marlborough retaliated by refusing to declare.

Leaders and letters to The Times ensued. The Headmasters' and Headmistresses' Conference will be discussing the matter. But is this practice confined to boys and men?

Barbara Daniels, chief executive of the Women's Cricket Association and vice-captain of the England team, confessed it was creeping in. "Australian women are akin to Australian men," she said. "Some players have had their parentage called into question, but usually it's not that personal or malicious. Sometimes close fielders will make you laugh to put you off your concentration." Teams are noisier now, she said, but that's more motivational.

English teachers are bemused by the transformation of a former leading light of the National Association for the Teaching of English, Alastair West.

Dr West, former chair of NATE, and English adviser for Redbridge, is a liberal thinker with impeccable left-wing credentials. He joined the School Curriculum and Assessment Authority last summer as the subject officer for English. To the amazement of ex-colleagues, he is the man behind the much-reviled grammar tests at key stage 3.

Anne Barnes, general secretary of NATE, called them "the most ridiculous thing SCAA has ever done".

John Wilks of the London branch of NATE said: "We'll be campaigning hard against them as they don't have much to do with raising standards of literacy. "

Log in or register for FREE to continue reading.

It only takes a moment and you'll get access to more news, plus courses, jobs and teaching resources tailored to you