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Off The Shelf

The idea that you if you want to get on in your career, then you should think about how you look to others always seems faintly amusing. Eleri Simpson's The Image Factor (Kogan Page Pounds 9.99) for instance, sets out detailed "levels of dress" for both men and women. Level one, for example, is all about dark suits, modest silk ties, cufflinks, cotton shirts and "dark socks, no pattern, at least mid calf length so they do not reveal flesh when the wearer sits down and crosses the legs." Level four, of course, is basically jeans and sweatshirt.

The point is, though, that it all actually works. I can think of several people now in very senior positions who, as young teachers years ago, made a deliberate point of dressing and behaving with added gravitas. As a career enhancing move it pays off at least as well as working hard. So if you keep getting turned down at interview, perhaps the answer lies not in your CV but in your wardrobe, in which case this book can help.

Of all the explosions that have shaken education in recent years, one of the most teeth-rattling went off under the further education colleges. Changing the Culture of a College by Richard Gorringe and several others (Coombe Lodge Report Vol 24 No 3 Pounds 9.50) puts it like this. "Central is the move from an 'allocation' to an 'earning' model of funding . . . In essence, the cultural imperative is that there is a need to earn funding from a customer in return for high quality services."

Many colleges - Richard Gorringe's book details nine of them - have taken up this challenge with a degree of vigour that has transformed them, in short order, in almost every way. Management structures, curriculum and timetable arrangements, the physical appearance of the buildings - all are noticeably different.

Also dealing with the FE revolution is Going Further. Edited by Colin Flint and Michael Austin (Association for Colleges Pounds 11.50) this is a collection of papers, by college principals and others, which ranges across most of the concerns and hopes for the future. To my mind, one of the greatest challenges is identified in the contribution by Colin Flint, of Solihull College. "For too many in our society, be they politicians, business leaders, school teachers or parents, 'technical education' implies lower ability, lower esteem, lower pay . . . Nine out of ten of those who hold such views would deny them. But by their deeds ye shall know them."

If the colleges of the late nineties and beyond succeed in cracking this one - and the optimism and drive which exists in some of them gives real hope - then we really will have to take notice.

Suppose, having given your secondary English group the essay title, "Argue the case against the banning of corporal punishment of children", you found that half of them had misunderstood, and argued against corporal punishment. Would you tell them off? Or would you confess in your next appraisal interview to your own ineptness with the English language? The example is from How to Write an Essay by Brendan Hennessy (How to Books, Pounds 7.99) and the point he is making is the eternal one about carefully reading the question. There is much good sense in this book - planning is important, for example, but all the same, "Don't worry about it. Tell yourself it's because you're creative. Write first, plan later . . . Make false starts, tear up and start again." Senior pupils and students badly need this sort of advice, because by the time they are 16, so many of them have been conditioned to believe that any piece of writing has to be produced in finished form in one go.

Travel, like beer, is an acquired taste for some young people. I still smile when I recall how Steve, a friend of mine now teaching in the Caribbean, reacted to arriving some years ago in Katmandu. "I went into the airport toilet determined to stay there until it was time to go home." I think it was the dead horse in the gutter that did it. If you or your students or offspring like that kind of thing, though - tropical beaches, ski slopes, bronzed companions, dead horses in the gutter, bagsnatchers in Bogota - then A Year Between (Central Bureau for Educational Visits and Exchanges Pounds 8.99) is the guide to it all.

Now in a second edition, the book lists numerous opportunities for young people to do something different. There are chances to work with people with special needs all around the UK, for example, as well as the chance to teach English in Ecuador. All the addresses are there, together with background advice. I can think of lots of parents who would like to give their teenage children this book for Christmas, with the opportunities to leave home and travel far away heavily underlined.

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