Diary

28th February 1997 at 00:00
The Diary's congratulations to Andrew Turner, director of the Grant-Maintained Schools Foundation, on finally being selected to fight a Conservative parliamentary seat, a project he embarked upon something like a year ago.

He has now set up camp on the Isle of Wight, and preparing to fight the good fight with vim, vigour, and probably rigour as well. Wondering if the Isle of Wight's gain is to be the education world's loss, the Diary calls the number on the bottom of the triumphant press release for more information.

We get a charming young lady, who offers to see if Andrew is on the phone but asks, anyway, what it is that we want to know. Carborundum explains, and there is a pause.

Apologetically, the voice explains that Andrew will not be able to come to the phone but that he is on unpaid leave and will resign his other commitments when he wins the seat.

Is it a safe seat, then? "Oh yes, there's a majority of 1,800 over the Liberal Democrats. He is definitely going to win." Carborundum - only an amateur psephologist - bites her tongue and peruses the press release further.

"This summer wedding - will it be on the Island?" we ask.

"Wedding? How do you know about that?" comes the distinctly rattled rejoinder. On the press release, we reply: it says that Mr Turner is organising it.

The frost thaws somewhat at the other end of the line, to be replaced by a somewhat forced tinkling laugh. "I'm his fiancee, you see. I didn't realise he'd put that bit on the press release. And I don't think he's really organising it - he's concentrating on other things. I suppose I'm organising it, really."

Lovers of romance might opine that this is just as well. Last spring, Carborundum was assured not only that the wedding was "imminent" but that it would happen sometime after the local government elections. And those were, er, in May.

Oh well. Once the election campaign is over, we can all look forward to a lovely wedding on the Isle of Wight.

Oh joy. Another communication from Beards for Labour, that organ of Keith Flett, the Letterwriter from Hell. "We demand that a Labour government introduces a beard quota for teachers," it begins, professing to be shocked by statements made by Education and Employment Secretary Gillian Shephard that in future all teachers must have a "smart appearance", and no scruffy people should be employed as teachers.

"This is simply code for an attempt to purge people with beards from the teaching profession," thunders the press release.

It continues: "The clean-shaven revisionism of Tony Blair has always been a minority strand within the Labour movement. The beardism of some Labour figures has led them to appear more clean-shaven than the Tories. We demand that Tony Blair issues an ultimatum to Chris Woodhead - grow a beard or get the sack. "

The sound of teeth grinding is heavy in the balmy air of London's Notting Hill, the environs of the School Curriculum and Assessment Authority.

And it's all over what sounds like an appallingly dull computer disc, enticingly titled Optional Tasks and Tests.

Nine-page criticisms of said disc have been doing the rounds among newspapers and other interested bodies from a disgruntled schools information technology co-ordinator cataloguing what appear to be hundreds of mistakes.

Over to SCAA, where publicity supremo Tony Millns is puce with fury. "I thought it was all down to a little oik in Keele, but now I discover the little oik in Keele subcontracted it to a little oik in Sheffield," he explains fluently.

Eh? Well, the first version of the thing was for the 200-odd schools using Windows. Then it was turned into a disc for RMArchimedes machines . . . except that the programmers used a much earlier version chock-full of mistakes. So now you know. Free replacements are being sent out to replace the Oiked copies.

Returning to romance, we have received (belatedly) a photocopy of the Guardian Valentine messages page with a particular item circled. "Wayne - I really miss your demand-led element. I guess a franchise is out of the question? Garth. " Our experts tell us this is something to do with colleges getting growth on the cheap. We suspect something far seedier.

And let's do another belated one while we're at it. Nigel de Gruchy, the voluble general secretary of the National Association of Schoolmasters Union of Women Teachers, is still spitting teeth over his copy of the Chief Inspector's annual report. It was addressed to Doug McAvoy (supremo of arch-rival union the National Union of Teachers), you see. "Incompetence! I assume Doug got mine," fumes Nigel.

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