3rd January 1997 at 00:00
Nice though the idea is of goodwill to all men and peace on earth, it is a sentiment which appears not to have permeated the subterranean hostilities being fought between the Government's most important education quangos.

It is fair to say that relationships between the School Curriculum and Assessment Authority and the Office for Standards in Education have been increasingly characterised by what Education and Employment Secretary Gillian Shephard once memorably described as "turf wars". Moreover, it cannot help matters that the Man Who Inspects Schools for the Queen - Chris Woodhead - was once chief executive at SCAA, giving him a unique perspective.

If SCAA's Christmas pantomime is anything to go by, white flags are unlikely to go up on either side in 1997. Indeed, as SCAA merges with its vocational equivalent to become a superquango, the odds must be good that tussles are likely to become more, not less, public.

However, the signs were all there for quango-watchers last year. The strains first became overt during the early autumn, with reports that Chris Woodhead was unhappy with the draft report of the Standards Over Time enquiry into public examinations being carried out by nominees from both bodies, as wrangling between the two sides held up the final version.

Then there was the tale of the OFSTED best-practice videos, otherwise known as More Joy of Teaching. It is fair to say that these were not greeted with unalloyed pleasure within SCAA, whose notion of the demarcation line between the two bodies lies elsewhere.

But as William Shakespeare remarked, the play's the thing. And SCAA's customised version of The Three Little Pigs gives a fascinating insight into how inter-quango relations are perceived.

For instance, there's the scene with Hawklet (believed to be assistant chief executive David Hawker) building his straw curriculum house.

"Will your house stand the ravages of OFFPIGG?" enquires another character. Cue Woodie Woolfe: "Yes - OFFPIGG. I've come to test you Hawklet. You'd better let me in for my inspection! There's no point trying to hide anything - I know how it all works here. I've got your numbers, your letters and your scores. Ha, ha! I can fail teachers! I can fail schools! And I can also make rather good pork sausages."

Having huffed and puffed, Woodie Woolfe makes his way to the stick house: "As you can see, we have a few too many Boards loose at the moment. But some here have been nailed together. We've been trying to make sure the rest are planed and sanded into a comparable shape. Then there's the very low ceiling - we have to match it against GNVQ specifications of course," explains the porker.

Woodie: "I'm going to huff and puff and blow your house down! And do you know what - no-one will care about the evidence. I can make standards fall wherever I go. I know all about marks - he's a friend of mine. You know it all makes sense - it's OFFPIGG's motto - Sine perniciei firmitas non est - 'No stability without destruction.' I'll make some good log tables out of these sticks!" And so on to the third house, made of bricks, where Dr Tate and Lyle joins the throng . . . and so does Woodie Woolfe, who explains: "I want some of your bricks, so hand them over! So you think your house is safe from my clutches - it's all over now. Don't think you're safe by joining QNCA. I want this building plot for myself. I've got schemes for myself here. I'm going to huff and puff and blow your house down! Ha, ha, ha, ha!" Woodie eventually makes for the chimney, below which Dr Tate and Lyle awaits with his warmed cauldron - containing "a sugary mixture of moral values, monitoring evidence and Grecian 2000". Into the cauldron plops the big bad wolf, with the final words: "Aaaagh. It's not over. I'm going to No 10."

Heaven knows what a good Freudian analyst would make of that lot. But it doesn't auger well for tranquil relationships among the quangocracy this year.

Equally baffling events across the water in Northern Ireland at the Council for Curriculum, Examinations and Assessment, whose unmissable invitations to the launch of teaching packs on information technology in English, Art and Design were posted five days after the launch itself. It seems the packs will "provide young people with skills that will be of direct relevance to them in school, the workplace and other aspects of life". But will it help them get old-fashioned letters in the post a bit quicker?

Meanwhile, governors in Norfolk were slightly baffled by the letter from their county councillors urging support for a lobby of central government for more money. "The appropriate person to write to is Mrs Gillian Shephard at the Department for Education and Employment," it explained helpfully. And continued: "Your local MP should be informed about the situation locally so that he, too, can consider the arguments." Can he? But isn't the local MP for most of South-West Norfolk one G. Shephard (Mrs)?

Log-in as an existing print or digital subscriber

Forgotten your subscriber ID?


To access this content and the full TES archive, subscribe now.

View subscriber offers


Get TES online and delivered to your door – for less than the price of a coffee

Save 33% off the cover price with this great subscription offer. Every copy delivered to your door by first-class post, plus full access to TES online and the TES app for just £1.90 per week.
Subscribers also enjoy a range of fantastic offers and benefits worth over £270:

  • Discounts off TES Institute courses
  • Access over 200,000 articles in the TES online archive
  • Free Tastecard membership worth £79.99
  • Discounts with Zipcar, Buyagift.com, Virgin Wines and other partners
Order your low-cost subscription today