7th March 1997 at 00:00
History and culture should be inculcated into every British schoolchild, according to government curriculum adviser Dr Nick Tate. On the same principle, Carborundum would like to advise the good doctor that extensive research has turned up the fact that his organisation's likely new home has its own fascinating past: it may have been here that some bright spark came up with the idea of itchy lavatory paper, to be installed in the haunts of Communists.

Once the nation's two exams and curriculum advisory quangos are merged - a mere formality now, barring accidents - like all newlyweds they will need a larger home, one which will house around 500 people.

Being thrifty, the Powers that Be are investigating redundant Government buildings to house the Qualifications and National Curriculum Authority and have whittled the possibilities down to two. One, which need not detain us here, is a perfectly respectable office block in Holborn. The other - a far more interesting prospect - is at 83 Piccadilly and once belonged to MI6. Yes, we're talking spies here.

The Building With No Name (it was too secret) has some interesting specifications. There's a bulletproof roof and a bunker, not to mention a bombproof lecture hall. Could come in jolly handy when the nation's pedagogues rise up in riot against the newest Government initiative.

Presumably the building boasts hot and cold running spooks, and no doubt every room is bugged, so soon Carborundum may be paying the Russians for those interesting little snippets of gossip.

Although officially the Holborn and Piccadilly buildings are running neck-and-neck in the race to find a new HQ - much will depend on which could be adapted quickest - there is much hilarity in the upper reaches of the School Curriculum and Assessment Authority about the thought of moving to Chateau Spook.

Fascinated, Carborundum combs the capital's bookshops for a copy of A Spy's London, a walking guide to places where real Bonds, Ms and Moneypennys did their plotting and double-crossing. Being in use until recently, it seems that the Piccadilly building has been deliberately omitted.

But there are interesting snippets to be had. For instance, should Dr Tate - henceforth to be known as M - take a stroll into St James's Street, he can view the once-secret nerve centre of MI9, a wartime escape and evasion organisation which specialised in Q-style gadgets. A Spy's London reveals: "There were hidden compasses, and maps printed on flight scarves, and flight boots that became civilian shoes and a fur-lined vest. Unfortunately, as boots or shoes, these were so uncomfortable the airmen rejected them."

To Conservative Central Office for a pre-election campaign press conference at which ministers (three) almost outnumber hacks. The subject? Labour frontbencher Peter Kilfoyle's opinions on the charitable status of private schools. As the fragrant Cheryl Gillan explains in what one hopes was a hastily-composed press release: "Nowhere is his hatred to (sic) the independent sector better demonstrated than in his latest proposals. Abolition by the back door - one of Labour's favourite tricks - just what they plan to do to grammar schools, grant-maintained schools and voluntary-aided schools." Enclosed is an article from Prep School Magazine with relevant sections heavily notated. "Let me put to rest the idea that whether by fair means or foul, the Labour party is determined to threaten the very existence of independent schools. It just is not the case," writes Mr Kilfoyle. Well, that's straightforward enough. But a double underlining for the following: "If for example there is a wealthy school, designated a charitable institution because hundreds of years ago it was set up with a charitable purpose but it no longer operates as such, it seems to me that that is not a sustainable position for it when there are so many deserving causes."

This all seems vaguely familiar, so Carborundum rings Mr Kilfoyle.

"This was a speech I gave last September, to the prep schools, and it went down extremely well then. We didn't realise they'd printed it in their magazine. It was a highly conciliatory speech. Obviously there was a delayed fuse on it which took six months to ignite."

Spring must be upon us. Carborundum has been informed of the year's first exam howlers' column. We do like some of the new list compiled by Devon teacher Martin Long.

There was the Shakespeare student, horrified that Macduff had been "untidily ripped from his mother's womb".

Science is another ripe cause of confusion. "Germination is the process of becoming German," opined one student. Another confidently gave the definition of a magnet as "something found crawling over a dead rat".

Most confident of all was the pupil who knew all about skeletons. "A skeleton is what is left after the insides have been taken out and the outsides taken off I the purpose of a skeleton is something to hitch meat to." Well, you can't argue with that.

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