Accreditation of another fine mess

19th January 1996 at 00:00
Gradgrind continues his series of true stories of the triumphs and travesties of college life. "That's a belter of an idea, Terry!"

Head of department Ashley Minder is rarely so effusive but then it is unheard of for a member of staff to single-handedly volunteer to rescue the department's wobbly finances.

Stott has put forward a proposal to run a course on desk-top publishing thinking himself safe in the belief that his bid for 24 Apple Macintosh computers and associated peripherals is so over the top that there is no way the cash-strapped college will bite the bullet, let alone the Further Education Funding Council.

But he is wrong. The college has received an unexpected windfall in the shape of an industrial sponsor and Stott's course is now very much on. As I glance at him I'm sure I see Stott's face going a delicate shade of green.

Minder surveys the newly-delivered computer equipment approvingly. He may not know much about desktop publishing or QuarkXPress but he does have the nous to realise that lying in those 20 or so cardboard boxes is the college's future revenue stream - a lot of bums on a lot of seats.

"By the way, your certificate in desktop publishing and production journalism starts first thing next term. I've already sent out the new prospectus. " With this bombshell Minder departs leaving Stott to ponder the fine mess he has got himself into. A "hot-metal print man", he is clearly unenthusiastic about computers which he treats with the same contempt he reserves for Minder's Filofax and his harping on about "total quality management".

The new academic year kicks off and on enrolment day I discover Stott hiding at the back of the hall. But the students, hooked on anything to do with the media, have already scented the trail and are lining up for him to sign their enrolment forms.

This, despite the fact he has put up signs directing them to a remote annexe where he has left a badly-written notice pinned to the door telling prospective students that their course tutor will only be taking names between 6pm and 6.15pm.

"A full course? Excellent." Minder beams as he comes over to congratulate his star lecturer later.

Towards the end of term I look in on Stott's class and see he has got to grips with the technology. He is surrounded by adoring students as he wields his mouse, moving slabs of copy around the screen and enlarging headlines like a kid with a new toy.

But then the bombshell. A student pipes up from the back "When do we get our certificates?" Certificates! What certificates? Stott didn't know and, when questioned later, neither did Minder.

"Just get it sorted Terry. It's your baby."

It is a few days before the Christmas break and I am passing the hall when my attention is drawn to a strange little ceremony. Stott is up there on the dais. In front of him a queue of expectant students. He is doling out a few well-chosen words and pat on the back to his chosen ones.

One of Stott's "graduates" proudly shows me the certificate she has just been given. It is on theatrically aged paper covered in seals and the college crest and motto. As the last of Stott's alumni shuffles off I demand: "Where did you get these certificates? This is the basest deception . . ."

Stott raises his eyebrows, haughtily frowns then puts his index finger to his lips. "Do you know who you're talking to?" He points to a framed certificate on the wall above. It reads "Terence Stott is hereby recognised as a Grand Master of Quark by Gill Sans at the University of Bodoni".

Gradgrind Contributions are welcomed (and paid for). Please contact The TESFE Focus, Admiral House, 66-68 East Smithfield, London E1 9XY. Names and locations are changed but evidence supporting the story should be provided.

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