24th January 1997 at 00:00
And a very happy New Year indeed for David Allen, general secretary of the Ulster Teachers Union, after a rather substantial pay hike.

Mr Allen is now clearing more than Pounds 63,000 a year in a combined salary and benefits package, putting him on a reasonably equal footing with the supremos of the giant mainland teacher unions. Except, perhaps, Peter Smith of the Association of Teachers and Lecturers whose remuneration is somewhere in the same ballpark as the nurses' and footballers' leaders.

But we digress. Mr Allen's arrangements appear particularly generous, since he has the grand total of 5,500 members: which works out at around Pounds 11 per teacher. Compare and contrast with memberships of England's two largest classroom unions, which lie at just under 200,000 and just above 150,000.

However, it would be a mistake to think that Mr Allen has been swanning around the six counties in a sports car during his term of office. It turns out that almost half of his pay package - benefits of Pounds 27,000, to be precise - is currently inflated because historically, his pension has been hugely underpaid.

Insiders suggest that until the new deal, Mr Allen would have collected his gold watch with a smaller pension than most of his members would have got.

Union sources say that Mr Allen has muttered darkly about his pension for years but has now gone as quiet as a mouse. Probably wisely: Carborundum's accountant suggests that making up the shortfall now is costing the union double what it would have done a decade ago. And serves it right, you may think.

President Joyce Cavelleros admits: "It was a historic situation which we inherited - a mistake was made - and we have now made good the shortfall.

"There were some misunderstandings."

A plaintive missive from Paul Mackney, who represents the West Midlands' merry band of lecturers. Readers may recall his star billing in the Diary earlier this month, when we revealed that Mr Mackney's office has four wheels and a gearstick, and is generally to be found in the salubrious environs of Spaghetti Junction.

But Mr Mackney now suspects that his 15 minutes of fame may have caused him a problem. His Old Tannery Collection soft leather briefcase was stolen from the front seat of his car ("sorry - NATFHE's car - my office") when he used the Mobil cashpoint just off Spaghetti Junction.

"Since my briefcase contained documents and work in progress on the definitive solutions to the part-time lecturers' contract problem, I can only assume that the perpetrator had picked up a hidden tip-off in the TES Diary column and is perhaps working for Mr R Ward (sic - and, for the uninitiated, R Ward is the exceptionally wily leader of the college employers' outfit).

Mr Mackney continues: "If it is the documents they wanted and you are in touch with them (it can't be mere coincidence, surely) could you please ask them to return my kangaroo tie (a present from my Australian mother), Groc's Guide to the Greek Isles, the kit for executors (of wills - I might need it), the photo of Dusty Springfield and my wide-brimmed Van Morrison-style Barbour hat. "

If the dastardly perpetrators are out there - or if anyone recalls spotting such a briefcase around Spaghetti Junction - please do the decent thing.

Worrying things, school trips, which is why an enterprising exam board this week launched a qualification in "Off-site Safety Management". If the sad tale written by a Cheshire child after one such trip - faithfully reported by David Cracknell, new chief education officers' supremo - the new exam comes not a moment too soon.

"As we got on the bus, Miss Johnson slipped on the step and broke the heel of her shoe. She had to sit in the front seat because she couldn't walk very well.

"On the way to the farm, Letitia was sick from drinking fizzy juice. She was sick down the back of Miss Johnson's coat. Miss Johnson rolled it up and put it under the seat. It began to smell a bit, and soon we had to stop because Angela was feeling sick as well.

"As we turned into the lane by the farm, it began to rain and the driver broke off his outside mirror against a tree. He was very cross and said a rude word. He told Miss Harris it was because we were making so much noise. She was very upset. As we were walking back to the bus, Darren stepped in a cowpat. Miss Harris told the driver to get back to the school before anything else happened.

"I don't think I want to go on any more school outings."

The Department for Education and Employment is reportedly delighted that the Labour party has signed up with Investors in People. Carborundum rang John Smith House to check this - and was greeted with one of those ghastly electronic switchboards explaining that this is the Labour party and instructing those with a touch-tone phone to "press 1" for policy information.

Investors in People? Doesn't sound promising.

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