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Musical unions

The finer points of educational detail are notoriously difficult to get across at political or union conferences. There was certainly no ready ear for David Bailey of the Scottish Further and Higher Education Association when he tried to interest last week's STUC conference in that dread FE word, SUMs (student units of measurement, of course).

John Gray of the Scottish Secondary Teachers' Association is too wise a bird for that and played on the delegates' desire - desperate need, in fact - for humour.

Gray's repertoire of abuse, as he helped orchestrate a plea for instrumental music teaching in schools, included denouncing a Government which was "very good at blowing its own trumpet, drumming up dwindling support, stringing the electorate along for the past 18 years and fiddling the unemployment figures".

The combined forces of the SSTA and the Educational Institute of Scotland then set sail to seek out money from abolishing Trident and the royal yacht. In a piece of lese-majesty, the planned expenditure on a replacement for Britannia was condemned by former SSTA president Barbara Clark as "millions of pounds on a new boat for one dysfunctional family".

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