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Frank talking by Pignatelli plc

FRANK'S BACK. Pignatelli of that ilk has actually been back for some time from his sojourn in London with the newspaper industry but Strathclyde's former director is now beginning to emerge. His head is getting increasingly warmer, too, so numerous are the hats he is busy acquiring.

Last week saw him in his latest role, presiding over a conference organised by the Nuffield Foundation's inquiry into modern languages, of which he is the Scottish member. And today he is delivering a keynote address at the Edinburgh conference run by the city council and The TES Scotland.

At other times, Pignatelli is chief executive of Scottish Business in the Community and runs his own company, Executive Support and Development, which aims to help senior managers unable to see the wood for the trees - or "the big picture", as he frequently described it. Two days a week he contracts himself to Motorola.

In the process, the pedagogical jargon of old has given way to some impressive business-speak. Pignatelli urged modern language teachers to consider their "brand image", "yield", "market share" and "return on investment". They might also have to do some "repositioning".

For good measure, he made at least three references to "breakfast meetings", one of which was with Nick Kuenssberg, chairman of the Institute of Directors in Scotland, who also addressed the Nuffield event. Over coffee and croissants, it seems, they did a lot of "thinking strategically", presumably an essential prerequisite for studying the big picture before repositioning themselves.

Kuenssberg, it was revealed, speaks French, German, Italian, Spanish and Flemish. Some of the sotto voce audience reaction suggested he gave the impression of being able to show off in all of them and practise diplomacy in none.

There were so few business people at the conference, Kuenssberg suggested, because they could not spare a full day off from creating the nation's wealth - which somehow managed to convey the impression that the educationists present were simply idling their way through the day.

"At most I would have expected perhaps a couple of personnel officers with nothing better to do or a human resources manager with just a few years of service left," said Kuenssberg, whose considerable height reinforced the lofty nature of his pronouncements.

According to the man with a reputation as a successful company doctor, the prescription for attracting businessmen to education gatherings is to run them from 7.30am to 10am or 4.30pm to 7pm. Breakfast meetings, perhaps - or, in Edinburgh, you'll have had your tea?

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