3rd March 1995 at 00:00
As the Moscow archives drift, paper by paper, into view, shedding light on the darkness of Cold War politics, so a stream of hitherto suppressed information is delighting historians of the Patten era.

It emerges that soon after gaining supreme power, Former Head Boy Patten graced a conference of leading Catholic educationists. He was dismayed to get not one, but two, questions from the floor about the inequitably large amounts of money making their way to the grant-maintained sector. "When as a Catholic I come to a Catholic conference I expect to be asked questions of morality and principle," he spluttered in a shocking and altogether puzzling fashion.

Sir Malcolm Thornton, chairman of the Select Committee on Education, is also one of Britain's most prominent governors. For the past 20 years he has been at the helm of Liscard primary in Wallasey on the Wirral, the only chairman of governors the school has ever had. In this week's On the Board column (TES2, page 8), Sir Malcolm bewails the lack of resources: "I feel impatient and frustrated with the limits of my budget."

Will he, then, be resigning in disgust at the latest financial settlement for education? His research assistant thought it unlikely.

All is confusion in the Emerald Isle. A secretary at the main Catholic teachers' union in Ulster, the Irish National Teachers' Organisation, picks up the telephone and hears a booming, brimstone-filled voice ask: "Is this the NASUWT?" "No, Dr Paisley," she replies (for it is he) and helpfully produces the correct number.

He then dials the British union and identifies himself in full - only to receive a wholly dismal response. "Ha ha: it's not even a very good impression," said the less-than-respectful receptionist.

It seems that mass murder, like beauty, is in the eye of the beholder. Channel 4 boss Michael Grade, finished a speech to the Association of Teachers and Lecturers last week with the story of how his station's duty office had been contacted by "an excited male caller" wanting to know if the rumour that Channel 4 was transmitting Reservoir Dogs every morning at 4am was true.

Instead of the blood-soaked Quentin Tarantino movie, Channel 4 had in fact been broadcasting such hard-core classics as Schools Make a Difference and the key stage 3 language blockbuster, The German Programme. The caller was advised that Reservoir Dogs was not showing, but if he tuned in he still might "learn a few things".

An intriguing fax reaches The TES from the home of the National Association of Head Teachers, inviting us to ponder on the great disparity between funding for primary schools and their secondary counterparts.

This may or may not be connected with today's launch of a rival outfit, the National Primary Headteachers' Association, of which the chief campaigning point is the great disparity between funding for primary schools and their secondary counterparts. The NPHA must decide: is it angered by the predatory instincts of the NAHT, or affronted by the paltry nature of the diversionary press release?

All quiet on the legislative front. But the wheels of the Department for Education grind remorselessly on. Sheila Scales, the civil service architect of such roaringly successful measures as the Schools Act 1992 (slashing HM Inspectorate and setting up the Office for Standards in Education) and school-based teacher training, has been promoted for her good work. Doubtless the proposals she drafted for a Mum's Army were a key factor.

Ever keen to eradicate waste, the opulently housed department should even now be considering its own surplus places among the hanging ferns.

As a little-read document from the National Audit Office explains: "Sanctuary Buildings is difficult to use efficiently because of its irregular shape and the mix of open-plan and irregular-sized offices". Nor, says the NAO, is the DFE in a position to measure its use of space due to a free-wheeling allocation policy.

Fortunately Comptroller Sir John Bourn has done his own measuring, and calculates that the mandarins are wasting Pounds 1.3 million a year. Is the DFE following his recommendations, given such contextual factors as the troublesome pay settlement for teachers?

"We have no plans to squash up at present," said a DFE spokesman. Getting rid of private offices would lead to inefficiency, he explained.

The anti-smoking campaign in Ulster schools has received a terrible setback. Ireland's tallest man, Mick Coulter (7ft 4ins) was unable to attend the launch as scheduled. He was starting a nine-month jail sentence in the Republic for stealing cigarettes worth Pounds 6,000 from a petrol station in Co Donegal.

Mr Coulter's manager reportedly said: "Mick will never work in showbusiness again.'

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