Skip to main content


With August bank holiday upon us, the point of no return is fast approaching for educational types who want to have something interesting to brag about come the resumption of hostilities in September.

And when it comes to union leaders, David Hart, of the National Association of Head Teachers, appears to have stolen a march on colleagues whose summers are occupied with caravan holidays or trips to France. He's been to the Seychelles . . . on honeymoon.

Yes, romance has blossomed between Mr Hart and one of his members. The bride is one Frances Morton, headteacher at a primary school in Caldbeck, Cumbria, and the pair's eyes first met across an official NAHT dinner table in 1992. Since then, despite the hundreds of miles between Caldbeck and sunny Sussex, HQ of the NAHT, the pair have been increasingly inseparable.

The Kleenex brigade may wish to know that the nuptials commenced on July 19 with a civil ceremony at Penrith register office, followed the next day with a blessing and reception before the happy couple flew off for a spot of island-hopping in the Seychelles. "I can recommend it to anyone. One of the last remote places in the world," enthuses the groom.

The Harts share an interest beside education: horse-riding. She's pretty damn good at it, while Mr H modestly admits that he is improving. "I've fallen off two or three times, I suppose, but that's part of the learning process. They reckon you haven't become a competent horseman or woman unless you have fallen off at least seven times. So I've still got four to go."

And more on that tome on God, morality and virtue dreamed up in a series of hot committee rooms for the School Curriculum and Assessment Authority. It emerges that teacher-training students were asked what were the most important things which children should learn in school. Predictably important were things like respect for persons and property and so on. But then there was Category P - "appropriately enough" says our mole - for individuals to write their own thoughts. And one did just that: "Children should be taught to wear clean underwear." Cleanliness is next to Godliness, they say, but this is taking it a bit far.

There is a puzzling postscript. When news of Category P leaked out into the SCAA press office, one bod commented: "That could go for some of our officers as well." Whatever could she mean?

Congratulations to Catherine Coxhead, chief executive of the Northern Ireland Council for the Curriculum, Examinations and Assessment, for finding such elegant, gracious, and well-considered phrases in praise of this year's public exam results.

"Our young people have once again demonstrated that they are capable of achieving the highest standards in these important examinations. It is pleasing for the council and our examiners to note various improvements across the grades and subjects," she declared in last week's press release.

And so it continued, with congratulations to pupils, parents and teachers. Interesting enough, but, oh, slightly familiar. Yes, there it was - precisely the same 130 words in last year's statement. In fact, the entire press release was almost identical; good job they remembered to change the figures once they called up that old file on the word processor.

Surely she doesn't make a habit of it? A quick scurry round the Chateau to find the 1994 results, dusty but legible. Yes, you've guessed it - there on the second page: "Our young people have once again demonstrated . . ."

What, we wonder, would happen to candidates who reproduced verbatim answers from the previous year's exams?

A further communication from the indefatigable Keith Flett, suggesting really useful modules for the A-level Socialist on modern life and how to change it. There is the Rhodes Boyson History of A-levels Module: how the content and marking standards of A-level papers has changed since Rhodes Boyson's youth before the 1832 Great Reform Act. Or The Origins and Crisis of British Sporting Achievement: practical sessions including a chance to watch England lose a Test match and Arsenal participate in a 0-0 draw. Adjudication by the Blair Examining Board.

Always keen to mix work and play, George Turnbull has become a regular caller to Radio 4's Tuesday morning phone-in. Rightly anxious to set the record straight on education matters, he yet remains charmingly coy about his true identity: publicity supremo for the Southern Examining Group and the Associated Examining Board.

A few months ago it was "Mr George Turnbull from Guildford, Surrey" ringing a road safety debate with the good news that the SEG now offers a GCSE in driving. This week the silky Scottish tones of "Mr George Turnbull from Fleet, Hampshire" opined that the whole fuss about standards is entirely caused by disinformation from Sir Rhodes Boyson.

This feeble attempt at anonymity was soon rumbled by a pugnacious Peter Sissons, who retaliated with false allegations that Mr Turnbull's board gives out GCSE passes to pupils scoring only 14 per cent.

Hurrah for accountability, the cut and thrust of public debate. Except that Radio 4 knew very well who "George Turnbull from Hampshire" is: their researcher spent the previous evening quizzing him on which lines of questioning to take.

The publicity-crazed Mr Turnbull is, alas, on a slippery slope: he has agreed to appear on Chris Evans's Radio 1 breakfast time broadcast answering questions about Oasis, Blur and the like. On which, as he freely admits, he knows nothing.

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