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The progress of union elections is in Carborundum's experience almost always circular or sideways. And so it is proving with the race to become deputy general secretary of the National Union of Teachers.

Regular readers will recall that the two main contenders are sitting tenant Mary Hufford - regarded as being of a leftwards persuasion - and current president Steve "Squeaky-Clean" Sinnott, supported by the more mainstream Broad Left.

Adding spice to the mix - as if it was required - is Marian Darke, who has infuriated the great and the good in the Broad Left by standing as their unofficial candidate, thus possibly splitting a) the women's vote and b) the moderate vote.

Anyway, the latest twist in the tale involves the Teachers' Benevolent Fund, which occupies the same status in the union as the Queen Mum in the country at large. It seems letters supporting Mr S have gone out - in a personal capacity and not on headed notepaper - from the TBF offices. So incensed is Hufford supporter Andrew Hind (a member of her stalwart City of Leicester branch) that he has complained to the Charity Commissioners about the misuse of official address labels for political reasons. Watch this space.

Meanwhile, Mr S has taken mild exception to Carborundum's likening of him to Tony Blair last week. "Two girls at my school claim the resemblance is to Bill Clinton rather than Tony Blair, but I suppose I would rather be compared to Tony than to Derek Hatton as I was by The TES at Easter," he writes.

Seems we're wrong about his sartorial proclivities as well. "My taste is not for grey but navy blue suits, preferably with hand-stitched edges and a D-body lining. (I used to have a Saturday job at Jackson the Tailor.)" He continues: "As for the other accusations, and being 'squeaky clean', I wish to make a number of confessions. Firstly, I did attend, for a number of weeks, meetings of the Boys' Brigade. Secondly, I also kept a scrapbook of Cilla Black cuttings and used my John Bull printing outfit to stamp in appropriate places 'Cilla is fab'. Thirdly, I was ambitious and I wanted to play outside right for Everton. I still do.

"Finally . . . I did not inhale."

What do they put in the water in Leeds? First there was the unaccountable use of Mars bars. Now the city's Bishop David Konstant, education spokesman for the Catholic Church, is under fierce attack from pious novelist Piers Paul Read.

The bishop is "unacceptably liberal", intones Mr Read, who is chairman of something called the Catholic Writers' Guild. And the bishop's crime? Well, it's rather difficult to fathom, but seems to be something to do with the tricky subjects of homosexuality and masturbation.

The outbursts began with the conservative Archbishop of Birmingham, Maurice Couve de Murville, who announced in a not so "private" letter to school governors in the Archdiocese that the Catholic booklet, Education in Sexuality contains "serious deficiencies".

The incumbent of Birmingham's Pugin pile was wise enough to avoid the specifics. Not so the anonymous but widely quoted "critics" who enriched the newspaper stories with bizarre claims that the booklet promotes homosexuality and masturbation, in defiance of the Vatican and probably the law. Enter Mr Read with a demand for the resignation of the "unacceptable" bishop.

All very strange. Especially since the booklet sticks close to the Vatican line . . . save for a list of books for further reading in which the publisher, the Catholic Education Service, is rash enough to include two publications by - God forbid - the Family Planning Association.

These names, we gather, have been Tipp-Exed to oblivion on all remaining copies.

Carborundum is considering an excursion to the wild Forest of Dean in Gloucestershire after learning of the unique joys of the local comprehensive, Dene Magna.

Well, there's at least one satisfied parent there: Katherine Firth, proud mum of Dean, the 16-year-old head boy. So impressed is she by Dene Magna, in fact, that she's put Dean's brother Craig on the waiting list . . . for the year 2005. Craig, you see, is just nine months old. Dene Magna is nobly containing its surprise. A spokeswoman told the local paper: "It's amazing - this sort of thing happens with Eton, but not usually with us."

Rumblings of discontent from the historic London borough of Southwark, where primary head Martin Kirby has some advice for the Department for Education.

Since his governors decided unanimously against opting out last term, Mr K was less than pleased to find a letter from the DFE at the beginning of term, inviting him to a conference called "Going GM". "It made my blood boil, " fulminates Mr K in Victor Meldrew style, complaining that the agenda contained not one word on the disadvantages. But he has a cunning plan. "The conference is to be held on November 2. I suggest the DFE put it back to November 5 to allow me and thousands of colleagues to attend and burn our invitations in order to have a wonderful Bonfire Night."

Carborundum wishes bookies would take bets on quango appointees, since for weeks we've had a red-hot tip on the identity of the long-awaited new chief executive of the Teacher Training Agency. opinion is that Anthea Millett, of the Office for Standards in Education and recently pipped for the chief inspector's job, has struck lucky. But it seems her name has been sitting in a Downing Street in-tray while due political consideration is given. Interestingly, the same thing happened to the list of TTA members - and that got doctored.

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