1st November 1996 at 00:00
Skirmishes between protagonists in the grant-maintained schools campaign are always entertaining, but Carborundum came across an unusually good-humoured incident this week.

It is the Teachers, Governors and Parents show at the London Arena (a venue tucked away in the shadow of Canary Wharf) and, surprise, surprise, there is a workshop called The Case For Self-Government run by the Grant-Maintained Schools Foundation.

Equally unsurprisingly, doughty campaigner Martin Rogers, of Local Schools Information (a body not entirely convinced of the case for opting out), decides to pop along to the workshop to participate.

The event is billed to start at three. At five minutes to, the workshop facilitator, as I suppose we should now call him, timidly approaches the small, arguing crowd in the front row and suggests they continue their discussion elsewhere, since they are obviously remnants of the previous workshop. Most apologetically, they explain they hadn't realised anyone was ready to start and flee en masse.

This leaves Tony Walton, the Foundation's Friend From The North (he runs the Newcastle office) with Mr Rogers as sole member of the audience.

After five minutes of acute embarrassment, Mr Walton clears his throat and says: "Well, it looks as if you are the only one here," and gives his card to Mr Rogers. Mr Rogers tells Carborundum: "I didn't have the heart to make him go through the whole presentation, so I told him who I was and said I didn't think we'd met. He said, 'No, but I know all about you.' Then he said: 'This must be rather encouraging.' He was quite pleasant really."

Still, it's nice to know Mr Walton's trip was not entirely wasted. Apparently he has relatives in London.

A certain cynicism about the Government's committment to opening its quango membership to all in the wake of the Nolan Committee reforms can be forgiven, if the experience of the Association of Metropolitan Authorities is anything to go by.

Imagine the excitement in the AMA's central London offices last Thursday when in a national newspaper was espied an advertisement for commissioners for the Equal Opportunities Commission, the Higher Education Funding Council for England and the National Council for Educational Technology.

Rodney Brooke, the AMA's secretary, particularly fancied the HEFCE vacancy, but was rather disappointed to see that candidates were expected to have high-level experience within the academic community or industry and commerce. Not public service, note.

Determined to apply anyway, he read on. And discovered that he had to write to one Guy Longhorn at the DFEE (no telephone number given) for further details and an application form. The closing date for applications was the following Monday, just two working days away. Plus ca change, eh?

There is a tide in the affairs of men, which, taken at the flood, leads on to fortune. (Shakespeare, Julius Caesar). And parents and teachers at the Summercroft Nursery Group in Bishop's Stortford are hoping that the same wet luck will attach itself to their campaign to stay open after a recent incident.

Picture the scene. The nursery - a non-profit-making organisation which has occupied space at the local infant school for some 15 years - is threatened with closure because Hertfordshire County Council fancies setting up its own provision for four-year-olds to take advantage of the Government's voucher scheme.

The nursery - which caters for three-year-olds as well - disagrees, and launches a frantic campaign to save its facilities. Inevitably, this involves lots of visits from local dignitaries. One day, head Pat Smith is showing round Liberal Democrat councillor Gerald Francis, and explaining earnestly how it is a nonsense to separate three- and four-year-olds because their physical needs are very similar.

The councillor nods. On cue, a small child wanders up, stops in front of this interesting pair of adults ... and an enormous, warm and apparently unstoppable puddle appears on the floor alarmingly close to two expensive pairs of shoes, thus proving Mrs Smith's point.

The next scene involves a helper with a cloth and bucket and two rapidly retreating adults. Councillor Francis's reaction is sadly unrecorded, but Mrs Smith is considering double rations of milk next time an official visit is in the offing.

Education is a wonderful thing, as George Varnava, former president of the National Association of Head Teachers, will tell you. Having recently moved house and arranged for the Post Office to redirect his mail, Mr V was not inconsiderably annoyed to discover that his bills were turning up here, there and everywhere. So he complained, and was rather taken aback by the answer he received: "I apologise if this redirection failure has caused you any incontinence."

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