Diary

23rd June 1995 at 01:00
The Curse of the Nation's Most Famous Carpet has finally been laid to rest. Duncan Graham's Folly, as the classy wool weave was known, achieved notoriety after being specially created for the National Curriculum Council (NCC), the now-defunct body which existed before the School Curriculum and Assessment Agency (SCAA) and after the School Curriculum Development Council (SCDC). (That's enough curriculum acronyms, Ed).

Mr Graham, the then chairman and chief executive, ordered the notorious carpet to be woven with a repeating pattern of the quango initials marching purposefully across the tasteful brownglum beige (depending on whose opinion is canvassed), at a total cost of some Pounds 10,000.

Curse one: he lost his job.

Unfortunately, when the NCC was ritually slaughtered some three years later (Curse two) and the newly-created Funding Agency for Schools inherited the York building, the last thing it wanted was a floor covering tastefully adorned with its predecessor's initials.

So up came the carpet, and once press officer Paul McGill (who lost his job in the NCCSEAC merger: Curse three) had finished hacking nine-inch squares out of it to send to the nation's education correspondents, increasingly desperate attempts were made to find it a home, scouring the phone books for extant NCCs.

Finally, there was a very quiet auction in York, attended by Elvington Primary School and the New Earswick Sports Club, both clutching their carefully scraped-together tenners and watching enviously as all sorts of assorted NCC office fittings went for a song.

The carpet lot came up. The school bid Pounds 100. The club managed Pounds 105. And that's when the Curse of the Carpet was passed on from quango to club.

Club trustee Geoff Clarkson confesses: "My sister and some of my family didn't speak to me for a while. You see, Elvington had been on the television news explaining that their classroom floors were covered with old lino which was curling up at the edges, and on the night we bought the carpet they showed all these sad children who weren't going to get their carpet."

Worse was to come. "We offered to let Elvington have anything left over: we had to cover 120 square metres in our new pavilion and there was supposed to be 150metres of this carpet. But when it came to laying it there was hardly anything left over - we even had to use a bit which mysteriously turned up in the local cubs' hut. Goodness knows where it all went."

But the tale at least has had a happy ending since the Great Laying in March, according to Mr Clarkson: "It's a wonderful carpet. It just shows you how much administrators featherbed their own accommodation. But it's appalling to think how much it cost three years before." Oh, and his family are once again on speaking terms. Perhaps the Curse of Duncan's Folly has finally been exorcised by the sweaty toes of Yorkshire's finest sportsmen and women.

Sadly, readers have now missed the opportunity to apply to become marketing resources officer in Bolton's Community Education Department (temporary for one year initially). Successful applicants would have been "broadly skilled marketing professionals with project leadership ability and at least two years' experience".

But never mind. You have until Monday to whizz your application in to Dunraven (grant-maintained) School, which is seeking a marketing and communications manager. They want their new bod to implement a marketing policy for the school and come up with extra funds.

One other minor difference. The successful applicant in Bolton - marketing a whole education authority - can expect to be paid no more than Pounds 17, 667. Dunraven School is offering circa Pounds 25,000, salary and conditions negotiable. Still, presumably Labour's new policy on GM schools means Dunraven's new staff member could actually spend quite a lot of time raising funds to cover his or her own salary.

Bent on self-improvement, Carborundum has been browsing - as one does - through the latest edition of the Concise Oxford Dictionary to learn what hip new words have found their way into Establishmentese and thus, presumably, past the Education Secretary's Proper English committee.

And we fear Mrs Shephard may become a little antsy, or even upchuck, at some of the alien new words given this official seal of approval.

In fact, we don't think she's going to like it at all. Difficult to imagine her dulcet tones describing education policy as a megaflop (a computerism) or ordering a lackey to send documents to The TES via snail mail (aka the postal system).

But even more difficult to imagine her enunciating Newspeak such as ableism (discrimination in favour of able-bodied people) or waitperson.

Annus horribilis - a horrible year - has found its way into the Concise, described tactfully as "modern Latin", while Euro-rebel and Euro-sceptic are another two new political phrases which may be close to the Education Secretary's heart. Others placed there by her party include fundholder, hospital trust and grant-maintained school.

But the most peculiar new entry, to Carborundum's mind, comes alongside all the parathas, ciabattas, Baltis and fajitas whose presence indicates the increasingly cosmopolitan nature of British eating habits since the last edition came out.

"Scratchings, n. pl. (in full, pork scratchings), crisp pieces of pork fat left after rendering lard, sold in packets as a snack." If ever there was a politically incorrect foodstuff, this is it.

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