Play the game and be a big cheese in FE

As Christmas comes, it is time to spare a thought for people less fortunate than ourselves.

For a start, think of me and my poor chums slaving away out there in the private sector with its ghastly capitalism. To begin with, there's the amount of holiday we get - although the importance of marital harmony prevents me from mentioning this to Mrs Ferret, who, as a schoolteacher is always reminding me that I fail to understand the complexities of these things.

Of course, us private sector workers are different. At heart, we are all tycoons and the harsh reality of the "real world" encourages us to think about the bottom line.

The fact is, we love it.

The proof can be found on the carpets of living rooms up and down the land over the next few days.

Yes, to the background noise of the television, millions of residents of what Napoleon dubbed the "nation of shopkeepers" will slide off the sofa onto the floor to study at the Family Centre for Business Studies - otherwise known as Monopoly.

After all, what better way could there be of celebrating the birth of little lord Jesus than swanning around London in the silver-coloured car (no congestion charge here), buying up all the most expensive properties and driving your in-laws to bankruptcy.

Of course, all this naked greed may be lost on some of you sensitive souls who work in further education.

Nobody on a lecturer's salary could be accused of attempting to line their own pockets. Well, not strictly true, but let's not get into that now. Most lecturers, as their relatives squeal with delight with every roll of the dice, may feel a little, well, shall we say "socially excluded".

Fear not. Into my pigeon hole has arrived a new version of the game which reflects the fact that, even in the humble world of post-16 education, there's plenty of money to be made as long as you're not teaching any students.

FE too has its empires, its take-overs and its high-rollers. Without so much as a house on the Old Kent road, its big cheeses still pass 'Go' and they collect a lot more than pound;200, although none have yet gone to jail.

The new game is Educationopoly.

First of all, can I congratulate "Cognac: the big picture company", which is behind the idea, and has shown that there are people in PR who do more than hand round sausages on sticks and nag journalists in breathless, seductive tones about what we are going to do with the latest badly-written press release.

The firm sent the game to all the big organisations in the "lifelong learning sector" - all of which can be bought and sold just like the streets in the real thing.

I'm a bit worried about The TES though. Apparently we are only worth Pounds 200, although we are referred to as a "utility", which is pretty good.

Well, you can't do without a utility can you? That would be like switching off the water supply.

There's only one thing wrong with this game. Just like the real thing, it's possible for players to run out of cash. Well, we've reported on a few mergers over the years, and even organisations in deficit. But running out of cash? Unheard of.

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