24th March 1995 at 00:00
The arrival of young Euan Blair at the London Oratory school in September is awaited, Carborundum hears, with more trepidation than is quite normal for 11-year-old schoolboys from nice, middle-class homes.

Oratory head John McIntosh has been confiding in friends that he sees the arrival of the Labour leader's firstborn as "a mixed blessing" and "for my sins".

This may not be solely because of the undoubted media attention which will focus on the grant-maintained school as a result of Blair p re's controversial decision. Mr McIntosh has "previous" with senior Labour figures, which has resulted in some curious events.

He is fond of recounting the fun and games he has had over the presence of the offspring of senior Labour bod Harriet Harman at the school. Ms Harman just happens to be married to union leader Jack Dromey, who found it increasingly embarrassing to be connected with a school which has banned such workers' organisations.

It was not unknown for him to ring up and bend the headteacher's ear over this, and Mr D also attempted to enlist the help of Nigel de Gruchy of the teachers' union NASUWT. That tactic backfired badly, according to Mr McIntosh. It turns out, you see, that the wily de Gruchy - a man who has been receiving fan mail from the past president of a rival union - rather approved of the pay and conditions accorded to staff at the Oratory. That is despite the Oratory's status of being a union-free zone. Moreover, the two men were united in their opinion that performance-related pay in education is a dead duck. Sounds like good preparation for seven years of Blair junior.

Westminster-watchers have increasingly been fingering Mrs Gillian Shephard as the most likely unlikely successor to the Tory leadership should J Major be forced to fall on his Biro.

Not a glimmer of evidence has been adduced for this, except that, like Mr M, she is something of a dark horse, someone who has risen through the ranks swiftly, and is generally well thought of.

Moreover, she is someone who is seen ashaving rescued education from a deep, dark hole and turning it into an area of relative calm - even dullness.

Even the current furore over funding has managed to stick no mud on St Teflon of Sanctuary Buildings, thanks to a judicious leak of a letter to the Treasury warning of dire consequences if (a) teachers did not receive a respectable pay rise and (b) it was not fully funded by the Government.

But Carborundum has finally seen the sign that Mrs S is truly The Chosen One. Making a guest appearance at the Grant-Maintained Schools annual conference, she was obviously determined to make an impression, what with her bright-red jacket and shiny gold earrings. Not very Majorish, you may think.

But next she strode over to the lectern, took a deep breath . . . and gamely clambered in the most ladylike way possible on to a two-foot-high box thoughtfully placed there so that the diminutive Mrs Shephard had at least a fighting chance of seeing her audience, and they her.

Scenting a story, Carborundum enquired of Mrs Shephard's Department for Education lackey - a remarkably tall man - if she had borrowed Mr Major's personal soapbox. "Dunno," he replied, dully.

Fascinating scenes this week in Westminster, as the mass rally and lobby of MPs by parents, teachers and governors milled around Methodist Central Hall, planning terribly genteel insurrection, before moving on to Parliament. Such is the interest in education cuts at present that the event was also milling with journalists, some of whom was to be more on the ball than others. One radio hack seemed particularly confused, asking of a friendly face: "How do you tell what a governor looks like? I know what teachers look like - they've got beards, unco-ordinated clothes and they vote Labour. But what about governors? I need to find a Tory one."

A most peculiar tale arrives from Sussex University, which sounds like an urban myth but apparently isn't. Bits of the 1960s campus are now Grade I listed, thanks to some innovative work with bricks by architect Basil Spence - some of it possibly rather too innovative. For among the highlights are dinky little moats around two of the main buildings, into one of which three surprised Catholic priests apparently plunged recently.

"They hadn't had a good lunch or anything," explains a Sussex mole carefully. "I think there was just a bit of confusion about where the path went."

A strange document arrives - via a very circuitous route - from BTEC on the subject of the intermediate and advanced General National Vocational Qualification in engineering.

It seems a curious syllabus, looking at the rional (sic) economy, dradable and non-dradable (sic) by-products and the impacts of lislation and rulation. More baffled than usual by vocational jargon, Carborundum turns to the covering letter from one Colin Seamarks, a man with a theory.

Stunned that no one at BTEC noticed these errors between September, when the document was dated, and last week when a colleague sent for it, Mr Seamarks believes there can only be one explanation.

"It seems that the National Council for Vocational Qualifications does not allow the expression eg, and a computer has been programmed to remove all eg's from the enclosed document." It sounds so stupid it could just be correct.

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