Skip to main content


A delightful communication from School's Out, the organisation campaigning for lesbian and gay equality in education. Geof Ellingham, the outfit's press officer who achieved apoplectic tabloid notoriety after telling The TES how he came out to his class, professes himself baffled by the National Association of Schoolmasters Union of Women Teachers.

Back at the Easter conferences when the National Union of Teachers (pay attention at the back: this is the only other union involved in this tale) passed a motion on lesbian and gay equality, Nigel de Gruchy, the soundbite king of NASUWT, opined: "Teachers have enough to concern themselves with, such as making sure pupils master the 3Rs, without getting into the Three Ss - Sex, Sex and Sex."

Imagine the surprise, then, of Mr Ellingham and his merry band of members on their recent discovery that the NASUWT was running a seminar on gay and lesbian issues in education. Delighted, School's Out wrote a helpful letter to the union offering support. "Perhaps (as we count a number of NASUWT members among our own members) we could publicise the seminar in our newsletter. Perhaps we could come along and help out with a workshop or something?" An almost palpable shudder from the union - there was "no need"for School's Out to promote the seminar and non-union members were not welcome. A letter from Mary Howard, the union's principal officer (equal opportunities and education) explained that "the express purpose of the seminar is to inform the National Association on issues which need to be progressed on employment issues for our gay and lesbian members."

More in sorrow than anger, Mr E wonders just where the union will gather this information "given its record on lesbian and gay issues (which is to say, it hasn't one) and the none too helpful pronouncements of its general secretary".

Still, he is nothing if not magnanimous: "School's Out does of course wish the NASUWT well in its quest to transform itself into a gay-friendly union - before all its lesbian and gay members desert to the NUT".

Fame has finally arrived for Chris Woodhead, the man who inspects schools for the Queen. You can tell. Not one, but two rumours are currently doing the rounds about him, much to the hilarity of his press spokesman.

Rumour one - presented as fact by Carborundum's sources - is that Mr W was married, quietly, in the last couple of months, to his lady friend Ruth Miskin.

Intending to send the happy couple a bouquet, we contact the Office for Standards in Education. "You're the seventh person to ring up and ask that question," guffaws Mr W's anonymous liaison with the outside world. Any idea where the story came from, or why? asks Carborundum. None at all, chuckles Mr Anon. Any truth in it? No. So no flowers, then.

What about the other rumour, doing the rounds among the rank and file in OFSTED's Alexandra House, that says Mr Woodhead is considering taking another job . . . in New Zealand. Hysterical laughter floats down the phone.

Thanks to the lecturers' union, NATFHE, for sending us a press release, headed "College lecturers plan pay strike". Six times by post, four times by fax, on the same day. This is, let us recall, the union pleading poverty because its strike fund is down to its last Pounds 58,000.

we don't know whether to be baffled or titillated by a paper in the British Educational Research Journal, titled "Touchy subjects: a risky enquiry into pedagogical pleasure". The only pleasure Carborundum recalls observing in a teacher was the physics master's prediliction for hurling board rubbers at the heads of recalcitrant pupils. But this doesn't appear to be what author Erica McWilliam, of Queensland's University of Technology in Australia, is driving at: "This enquiry is risky because I am attempting to reclaim the importance of embodied pleasure in pedagogical work. I am arguing that powerful pedagogical events are necessarily ambiguous and duplicitous as erotic, mutually seductive encounters. The forces of desire that are mobilised in such events (the desire to teach and the desire to learn) are potentially rewarding as well as malevolent. I argue this in the face of moral panic around abusive pedagogy and attempts by policy-makers, teacher educators and others to address pedagogical work as though it were possible to identity and separate out 'non-sexualethicalgood' moments of powerful teaching from 'erotic as abusiveunethicalbad' moments. Whatever has been achieved in terms of raising awareness of the moral responsibility of teaching, much has been lost to teacher if powerful teachers are not to be recognised and to recognise ourselves as 'professors of desire' in classrooms."

All clear on that one, professors of desire? Don't bother turning up for work on Monday in straps and chains, though - the author stresses she would "define 'erotic' in ways that acknowledge its corporeal dimension but not a sexually explicit dimension".

Fascinating though the argument is, it is the long list of references which catches Carborundum's eye. Somehow, we missed a public seminar and lecture two years ago by one Jane Gallop - called "The Teacher's Breasts" - which included a paper entitled "Ethics Erotics and Cannibalism in Pedagogy".

Why, oh why, has the turn-on of teaching been such a well-kept secret until now? There can only be one explanation. Teachers take a vow of silence to keep all that fun to themselves - something the Teacher Training Agency should rectify in its next recruitment drive.

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