14th April 1995 at 01:00
Easter once more, and the teacher union conferences are once again giving aid and succour to weary newsdesks bored with chasing junior Tories through their suburban bedroom antics.

Today, all eyes are on the mighty National Union of Teachers as they march on Blackpool to pass all sorts of headline-grabbing motions which, strangely, will never get past the executive when it comes to actually taking action. And so minor frivolity at the National Association of Schoolmasters Union of Women Teachers' annual do in genteel Eastbourne has been largely overlooked.

The thorny issue of getting delegates (whose general appearance led one genuinely puzzled observer to wonder how come there was a whole Union of Woodwork Teachers) to vote for an increase in subscriptions is always a thorny one. So general secretary Nigel de Gruchy and treasurer "Big" Mick Carney were likely to keep quiet about their private joke on the subject during the debate this week.

The NASUWT, you see, has a fighting fund of well over Pounds 7million with the curious title of the Sunderland Reserve Fund. Even more oddly, this dates back to 1958, when members refused to administer pupils' dinner money, Sunderland members were suspended, and the whole thing got quite nasty.

Anyway, ever since the Battle of the Boiled Cabbage the fund has gone from strength to strength and is now administered by Mr Carney, who by coincidence is a rabid supporter of Sunderland - a team which is currently hovering around the relegation zone of Division One. Apparently, it has not escaped his notice that judicious misuse of said fund would enable him to buy someone like the twinkletoed Andy Cole for Sunderland, thus saving them from a miserable fate. By contrast, the NUT - with a miserly Pounds 3m under general secretary Doug McAvoy's belt - couldn't afford anyone half as flash.

As Mr de Gruchy puts it: "If we were in the business of competing for footballers we'd do quite well."

The demonic Roger Ward, supremo of the Colleges' Employers' Forum and dedicated revisionist of lecturers' working conditions, appears to have won a noble victory at Guildford College. An advert recently appeared in the local paper for staff at "25 hours per day x 38 weeks per year, Pounds 4.790 per annum." A fax bringing this matter to Mr W's attention from the college read: "Roger - at last, we've got the ultimate contractual arrangement..."

The number of applicants has not been recorded.

Funny the things which can put people in bad moods for the day. Chris Woodhead, chief inspector of schools and former chief executive of the School Curriculum and Assessment Authority, was observed "in a foul temper" at a recent vocational conference at the RSAExaminations Board.

The only explanation anyone could come up with was a comment Mr W had just overheard from education minister Tim Boswell: "I'll just stay to listen to Nick Tate, then go."

Mr Tate is, of course, the new chief executive of the School Curriculum and Assessment Authority, and featured considerably earlier in the conference programme than his successor.

Carborundum would have given a great deal to have been present at the House of Commons last week for a celebration involving Youth Clubs UK and Robert Atkins, Minister for the Environment.

The photograph accompanying the press release promoting the event was pleasure enough, featuring the bulky parliamentarian sitting uncomfortably atop a bike, surrounded by smirking teenagers. What was he doing? Apparently, launching something called The Ass Kickers Guide To The Galaxy which is described, more sedately, as a young person's ABC of environmental action.

But most of all, Carborundum would have loved to have been a fly on the wall when Mr A uttered the following immortal line: "I can't do better than quote from the guide: Get busy, have fun, and start kickin' now!" Perhaps his party should adopt it as a motto.

So, with the bulk of applications for university places in for the year, would-be students only having to choose on offers between spending their next three years in Clacton, Skegness or Chipping Sodbury, it's quite fascinating to look at what prompted their initial choice of institution. Leeds, it turns out, gets more applications than any other British university. It also sells the cheapest beer in the country, but presumably the two facts are entirely unconnected.

Meanwhile, sunny Glamorgan is claiming to have become "one of Britain's most fashionable universities," on the back of a survey by the national admissions service which noted a 57 per cent increase in applications this year.

Being naturally suspicious of statistics, we rang the university's press office to find out exactly how many applications they had last year, since only the percentages seemed to be quoted.

An enthusiastic man said it would be no problem. And, three weeks later, we're still waiting for a reply. Odd, that.

School prospectuses can be a dull read, but we're most impressed by the disciplinary policies apparently enforced at St Mary's RC primary and nursery school in Manchester. "The school will use all available sanctions as described in this document to irradiate incidents of bullying."

And we thought it was only the Ready Brek kids who glowed in the dark.

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