31st January 1997 at 00:00
You might have thought that grammar would be a minor concern among bigwigs at the Funding Agency for Schools, the York-based organisation which could well become an ex-quango after the election. But no.

Apparently, concern has recently been voiced about the standard of official correspondence going out to the nation's vast army of grant-maintained schools, and an official edict was issued to one particular department (which shall remain nameless) that the splitting of infinitives was henceforth banned.

Blank looks all round. The official took an executive decision. "Hands up everyone who knows what a split infinitive is," he barked. A sea of hands remained resolutely on tables, which agency officials attributed to the fact that none of their owners was older than 33, and had therefore not had the benefit of a traditional education.

So grammar lessons are now the order of the day. Carborundum would like to offer the following advice (penned by the great crime writer Raymond Chandler): "When I split an infinitive, god damn it, I split it so it stays split. "

And remember the golden rule: there's always someone worse off than you. Spare a thought for delegates at a forthcoming seminar for nurses, appetisingly entitled: "Mouth to Anus in a Day: an educational passage."

You might also consider sparing a thought for Australian teachers. Robust lot they obviously are, but according to the teachers' booklet with a video called Skeletons: Basic building block for nature and man, they may be required to perform certain tasks their British counterparts might well regard as being well beyond the call of duty: "Method for preparation of chicken bones. Choose hens who have come to the end of their laying life, or roosters several years old. The bones of these birds are sufficiently mature and hardened to withstand handling. Kill the bird by wringing its neck, or have a friend do it for you!

"Method 1. Put the bird in a large pot, cover with water and add some detergent. Simmer for two days until the bones separate from the rest of the body. Method 2. Pluck the feathers from the bird and put the whole bird on an ants' nest. Leave until the ants have done their job. Method 3. Pluck the feathers from the bird, clean out its intestines and skin it. Then follow Method 1."

Whatever happened to John Patten, education secretary and godly thinker, once of this parish? Fans will be pleased to know that there was a rare sighting of him last week, chairing a lunchtime seminar on "The Christian Response in Public Affairs" - in which he gave a clue to his current activity level. He had, he said, discovered that journalists had a patron saint. However, two days' solid graft in the House of Commons library had failed to elicit the existence of any saint holy enough to be patronised by politicians.

One of his speakers - Stephen Whittle of the Broadcasting Standards Council - was able to shed more light on the charitable impulses of some Christians. In a past life, he had been producer on the BBC's Songs of Praise. "You might think that would be a relatively quiet and enjoyable occupation," he said. "But in the second week into the job I received a furious letter, which said: 'Dear Whittle. You bastard hypocrite. Either give us the hymns we love or get out, you bastard. Signed, a Christian friend.'" One for the Values Forum, we suspect.

Scenes reminiscent of Oliver! were enacted at the Victoria and Albert museum last week when hungry delegates at a museums in education conference descended for lunch after a long morning.

Plates of sandwiches produced by Milburn's, the caterers hired by the V and A to run the "ace caff", disappeared within minutes as if attacked by locusts. Delegates who had paused to discuss the finer points of the conference found naked plates and no reinforcements.

One lean, but hungry latecomer had the temerity to make enquiries of the catering staff, only to be told sternly that nothing was left. "Some people took more than their share." The puzzled woman replied:"But how did they know what their share was?"

Own-goal time at two of the government's most embattled quangos, the Office for Standards in Education and the Teacher Training Agency. The pair have just sent out a letter to all universities and schools providing initial teacher training and various other bods, enclosing a fat book.

This, it turns out, is a reprint of the Framework for the Assessment of Quality and Standards in Initial Teacher Training, including the various bits which were accidentally left out in November.

This is proving entertaining to many of the recipients, some of whom (particularly in the universities) have had or anticipate run-ins with OFSTED.

One stops laughing for long enough to tell Carborundum: "It's taken them two months to realise half the framework isn't there. What a hoot."

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