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He's back;Diary;Opinion;News amp; Opinion

WELCOME back John Patten, long-lost friend of teachers everywhere and sadly absent from the headlines since stepping down as an MP in 1997.

His good work as education secretary - marked you'll recall by the introduction of league tables and an unusual interest in Hell and grant-maintained schools - was rewarded with a seat in the Lords and a few handy directorships in the City, including the chairmanship of bio-technology firm Cortecs, from which Patten has just resigned.

He leaves a record every bit as impressive as at the DFEE. During his year at the helm, Cortecs' losses have grown to pound;22 million and its share price crashed from 200p to 14p. Its leading product was withdrawn and it paid out a tidy pound;1.3m in an out-of-court settlement to Patten's predecessor, Glen Travers, forced out as chair and chief executive after revelations that his pay packet included a whopping pound;300,000 a year in benefits, including helicopter lessons.

(Out of court settlements are a Patten speciality - he famously had to reach one with Tim Brighouse after calling him a nutter and a madman.)

None of this can be laid at Patten's door, as a company spokesman is keen to stress. He stepped into the breach at the request of shareholders and cut costs, raised pound;5m in the City and oversaw a major restructuring. He leaves because "the type of non-executive director the company needs has changed".

Cortecs has marked his year by changing its name and moving to Wales. Many teachers wish they could have done the same in the early 1990s.


SCENES OF high drama at Sanctuary Buildings as ministers prepared for their first question time back from their hols. Estelle Morris, worried as ever about being late, was horrified to find herself stuck in the lift.

She frantically started calling people on her mobile phone, and Jacqui Smith - facing her first questions as minister - faced the palm-moistening prospect of giving Estelle's answers as well as her own.

Luckily, the doors were prised open in time and, since the lift wasn't between floors, Estelle didn't even have to be hauled out by her armpits. Later, she found herself returning to her office in the same lift.

Had it been fixed? What do you think?


MORE SLAPPED wrists for the DFEE, this time from those stern critics in Class 9 at Northowram primary school, Halifax, over a year-planner sent out with its free teachers' magazine.

Teacher Lesley Bowyer intended to use it as a class calendar - until her pupils rose up in protest. "We were appalled," the 31 Year 5 pupils write indignantly to The TES, "to see that the months were written in lower case letters".

Sharp-eyed readers of the literacy strategy, they knew that capitals should be taught in Year 1. "The DFEE tells us that we have to use capital letters but they don't use them. Is this fair?" they ask.

The calendar has been duly sent to Number 10 - "it is no use to us" - and the DFEE has been e-mailed. No response so far from either: Mrs Bowyer warns the PM that Labour faces electoral consequences come 2008 from 31 angry pupils if he doesn't shape up.

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