Diary

4th July 1997 at 01:00
Stephen Dorrell, the new Conservative education spokesman, has found support in the most unlikely places.

The heart of the Socialist Educational Association, to be precise.

Yes, indeed. The lanky former Health Secretary who less-than-deftly repositioned himself as a Euro-sceptic during the interminable pre-election phoney war, and then became the first candidate to be forced out of the leadership race, has a new and fervent fan in the shape of Graham Lane.

Mr Lane - who became a socialist at his grandmother's knee and met his wife at a teachers' union conference - is a former general secretary of the SEA and now education committee chair of the Local Government Association. And yet, and yet.

A form letter congratulating Mr Dorrell on his appointment has gone out from Mr Lane on LGA notepaper - with a scribbled comment on the bottom. "I am delighted you have been appointed to the post," it says.

And then there was the remark made by Mr Lane during the last LGA committee meeting. "If I'd been a Tory I'd have voted for Dorrell as leader," he opined. Does Mr Lane know some of Mr Dorrell's darkest secrets, or do we simply live in very interesting times?

Much has been made of the presence of both Chris Woodhead (the Man of Strong Views Who Inspects Schools for the Queen) and Tim Brighouse (Birmingham's education director whose views are equally strong, if sometimes rather different) on the same Government task force on education standards. Less has been made of the potential for off-message differences of opinion between Mr Woodhead and Anthea Millett, chief exec of the Teacher Training Agency.

Ms Millett's great task during the past few months has been the introduction of the new headship qualification, a construction which owes much to the dreaded national vocational qualification and has come under attack from university education departments for being "utilitarian" and "narrow".

Now it seems that her task force colleague might not be so keen either. At a speech in Shrewsbury last week, he was to be found extolling the virtues of a mentor-based approach to training heads.

"I think leadership is difficult to teach and it hasn't got a great deal to do with paper qualifications," he opined. "I want successful heads to open their door to aspirant heads. I think this will be more successful than any taught course in leadership." Ah. Carborundum's mole collared Mr W after the meeting and gently reminded him of the TTA paper qualification. Quick as a flash, he countered: "I don't think the two things are mutually exclusive ... I would want those prospective heads to see successful heads in action."

Pity poor Margaret Beckett. A square meal is a thing of the past for her, to judge by the celebrity recipe book produced by enterprising students at Liverpool's Holly Lodge Comprehensive.

The president of the Board of Trade has no time to whip up the spinach souffle favoured by fellow MP Glenda Jackson, or even playwright Willy Russell's "delicious dish of swede" (an "irresistible delight", Willy says, somewhat implausibly).

No, the curiously-named Euro Boum of Joy claims Mrs B only has time for a cheese toastie. This being New Labour, however, it's not just any cheese toastie, but a multi-ethnic pitta bread toastie. Slice open your pitta; fill with sliced onion, tomato, and grated cheese; grill lightly.

And for pudding? A sinful but speedy treat for the president on the go - bananas in kirsch (peel banana, pour over kirsch, sugar and thick cream). Assuming you can find kirsch at the corner shop.

Tony Blair's tasty carrot and sweet potato soup - he clearly has more time to spend in the kitchen - has a distinctly Islington flavour. His vegetables are lovingly sweated in olive oil then simmered in stock and orange juice. Chopped fresh coriander - forget boring old parsley - adds a finishing touch.

Hungry readers can acquire a copy for Pounds 5.99 (all proceeds to Unicef) from Enid Lodge, Holly Lodge School, Queen's Drive, Liverpool L13 0AE.

Still, at least there are some subversives retaining a sense of humour in the world of education. Or innocents who should be cherished, at any rate.

We have been faxed the itinerary for the visit of Robert Gordon's College Concert Band from Aberdeen to the United States, and a fascinating trip it sounds. Particularly the performance of the fiddle group in Intercourse. Intercourse, Pennsylvania, that is. (With optional afternoon activities in the Amish Country.) Unfortunately we cannot vouch for the veracity of the following information. A mole scribbles on the fax; "Apparently the tour T-shirt will say 'I enjoyed Intercourse with 87 members of the RGC Concert Band And Fiddle Group."

Still, thank goodness, the tour did not move down on South to the Carolinas, where the local dance might have proved somewhat baffling to our innocent Scots.

This particular dance is called the Shag, you see. Adherents are known as Shaggers, and the verb is Shagging.

Horrifyingly, it is a competitive sport.

Carborundum would dearly have loved to have been a fly on the elegant walls of Sir David Frost's annual garden party - but is making do with an account in the lovely pages of Hello!.

Those present included Jemima Khan, Michael Caine, Sir Robin Day, Fergie. .. and David Blunkett, our charming education secretary, accompanied by his delightful dog, Lucy. Interesting times, indeed.

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