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Diary

Fancy a little flutter for Christmas? Then here's a hot tip from your friendly diarist: it could be worth putting whatever loose change you find in the plum pudding on the New Year appointments to be made at the Government's as-yet-unborn quango.

Management matters at the Qualifications and National Curriculum Authority have been dragging on interminably since the Government decided that it agreed with the sainted Sir Ron Dearing that the Schools Curriculum and Assessment Authority and the National Council for Vocational Qualifications should indeed be merged to create a superquango.

The chairman's job was finally advertised a couple of months ago with the intention that the chief executive's post should be placed in the sits vac column this month. But you'll have searched in vain for it.

For one thing, there is no new chairman, not even a shortlist. Sir Ron has resolutely refused to have his trusty sword arm twisted yet again, and the few bods who applied were not deemed to be what the Government was looking for. Since then, discreet feelers have been put out - and rebuffed - and industrial sources report that one of their number (Sir Ron mark II?) is currently considering a proposition from Education Secretary Gillian Shephard.

And then there is the chief executive's job, which of course will partly depend on the say-so of the chairman. However, that is not the reason why no advertisements are to be placed. The reason is that the civil servants' union, the First Division Association, has been called in, whereupon it quietly pointed out that under European legislation when there was such a merger of organisations employees' contracts continued to be binding. Therefore, there was no vacancy for a chief executive: rather, there was one too many.

The result? Dr Nick Tate of SCAA and John Hillier of the NCVQ will both be interviewed by a very high-ranking panel for the job sometime in mid-January. Assuming, that is, that someone has accepted the post of chairman by then to be consulted on the matter.

And that is how the two most powerful posts in English education will be allocated as we go into the next millennium. Isn't bureaucracy wonderful?

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