26th December 1997 at 00:00
The post-Christmas lull is traditionally a period of quiet contemplation. Time, then, we think, for Carborundum's Awards of the Year ceremony:

Man of the Year (sponsored by Barbour) is Dr Nick Tate, supremo of the Government's curriculum quango, whose aegis now encompasses everything even vaguely intellectual between Janet and John and Paradise Lost (with elementary drain-clearing and nuclear decommissioning lurking within the mix). Dr Tate wins Carborundum's special commendation for actions over and above the call of duty, to wit: taking a national vocational qualification at some ridiculously high level (unlike every other educational official, dutifully ploughing through bog-standard NVQs in word-processing), and watching trainees insert rods down a blocked drain with every appearence of enthusiasm.

And Carborundum is happy to insert a correction to an earlier story: the good Doctor does not and has never owned a pair of green wellies.

Politician of the Year: John Patten, ex-education secretary, for confessing that thoughts of a career in the Commons first came to him when he joined Hertford College as a Fellow and received a letter which concluded: "PS. You retire on September 30, 2013". Moreover, it emerged that whenever Dr P was on an official visit, his civil servants had to look round first and then whizz back with all the info needed by an omniscient secretary of state - who was waiting impatiently in the gents.

And congratulations to his daughter Mary-Claire, who at the tender age of seven had enough nous to prevent her pater from bestowing the name of Knitting on the new family cat. (Its predecessors were General and Willow - geddit?) The chief inspector's Special Award for Valiant Teaching goes to any teacher who has followed the instructions on an Aussie classroom aid called Skeletons. "Method for preparation of chicken bones ... kill the bird by wringing its neck, or have a friend do it for you.

"Method one: 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 two: pluck the feathers from the bird and put the whole bird on an ants' nest. Leave until the ants have done their job. Method three: Pluck the feathers from the bird, clean out its intestines and skin it. Then follow method one."

The AL Rowse Award for Fascinating Facts of the Year go to the anonymous schoolboy historians whose wit and wisdom included the following insights: Elizabeth I "found it difficult to formulate policy with the ghost of Mary Queen of Scots hoovering in the background". And how did the rocks of Stonehenge find their way across the River Severn? "They may have floated them across on farts."

The ABTA Award for Worst School Trip of the Year: the following story, recounted by a Cheshire pupil: "As we got on the bus, Miss Johnson slipped on the step and broke the heel of her shoe. She had to sit in the front seat because she couldn't walk very well.

"On the way to the farm, Letitia was sick down the back of Miss Johnson's coat. Miss Johnson rolled it up and put it under the seat. It began to smell a bit, and soon we had to stop because Angela was feeling sick as well.

"As we turned into the lane by the farm, it began to rain and the driver broke off his outside mirror against the tree. He was very cross and said a rude word. He told Miss Harris it was because we were making so much noise. She was very upset. As we were walking back to the bus, Darren stepped in a cowpat. Miss Harris told the driver to get back to the school before anything else happened.

"I don't think I want to go on any more school outings."

The Hughie Green Special Award for the Uplifting Tale published in the Journal of Moral Education: "In 1996 a 26-year-old man in Florida was arrested in flagrante delicto with a plastic female porpoise in a sex shop into which he had broken. He had intended simply to rob the till but told the police that once in the shop he had become mesmerised by the various sexual applicances. 'I'm not a pervert,' he said, 'but I wanted to see what it felt like to be one.' He is now in prison ... and studying for a degree in marine conservation. "

The Brown Envelope Award: to an unnamed secondary school for penning the following billet-doux to the Office for Standards in Education. "Would you accept a small donation (I hope you take this as a bribe), so that we could get a good report. We are not very happy with you coming to our school and we will make you feel as wanted as a fart in a space suit."

The Offshore Banking Award for Excuses of the Year: some of the e-mails of absence notes currently doing the rounds: "Please excuse Tommy for being absent yesterday. He has diarrhoea and his boots leak." "My son is under a doctor's care and should not take PE today. Please execute him."


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