30th December 1994 at 00:00
The turkey barely digested, the Diary is in a curmudgeonly mood of post-Christmas gloom - just right for our annual academic awards ceremony to be held among the unwanted presents and unopened bills here in Chateau Carborundum.

And what a year it's been. We are still mourning the untimely departure of our favourite character, Dr John Haggitt Patten, from behind the enormous desk of the Secretary of State for Education. A measure of the loss: the replacement of his interesting collection of naked ladies on his office walls for a selection of agricultural scenes preferred by successor Gillian Shephard.

And so to the John Selwyn Gummer award for Know It All of the year: the prize goes to Dr P for his ruling in a dispute over assemblies. According to the dry legal report of the court case: "A reply was sent by the Secretary of State on July 7, 1992, stating that it was not necessary for him to identify the object of worship as long as one could be reasonably satisfied that there was one." That's all right then.

Film Of The Year was nominated by the staff of the School Curriculum and Assessment Authority after the hectic year in which they created a fistful of syllabuses and lost the mercurial Chris Woodhead, to be replaced as supremo by Nick Tate. According to the television guide: "Summerfield (1977), Nick Tate. Teasing Australian drama about a teacher arriving in a small seaside town to discover that none of the locals seems terribly bothered that his predecessor disappeared without trace. Promises more than it eventually delivers." Asks SCAA's resident TV critic: "Chris who?" The John Major Stoicism award (Prize: an unpainted garden gnome) - SCAA and Camelot overlord Sir Ron Dearing calling for curriculum documents on some particularly abstruse topic just two hours after a wincemaking operation on his personal plumbing (nothing to do, we're assured, with handing over Pounds 17.8m to the lottery winner). Wags suggest that he was having difficulty sleeping in a noisy hospital and realised a sure cure lay in perusal of the GCSE syllabus criteria.

The Deeply Lippy award for Joke Of The Year (Prize: a copy of Dr Patten's grovelling apology to Professor Tim Brighouse) goes to the poor wretches at the National Council for Vocational Qualifications, where the following gag has proved popular in the weeks before Christmas.

It runs thus. Terrorists take over a European conference on vocational training and take four hostages, whom they vow to kill one by one. Each victim is offered a last request. The first, a German, asks for a large supply of fine lager to remind him of good times and make him forget his imminent demise. The second, a Frenchman, asks for several courses of sumptuous cuisine cooked by a Parisian chef. The third, a Briton, asks for a chance to explain the importance of the NVQ system to the audience. The fourth, also British, pleads: "Just kill me before he starts."

The David Pascall Where Are They Now? award goes to Cliff Grantham, former political adviser to the late Dr Patten. Rumour has it he is writing speeches for the Governor of the Bank of England. Carborundum's alarmed mole whispers: "Do you think he'll have the same effect on the economy as he had on education?"

The Shake 'n' Vac award for most desperate advert: the Funding Agency for Schools in its quest for an information support officer in the Value for Money Unit, whose duties will include advising the team on use of "exciting databases". Either a misprint or an oxymoron, surely?

Acronyms corner: no prizes, as the official ones have been rather tame since Parents Opposed to Opting Out, which means that entertainment lies only in new interpretations. We all thought that OFSTED stood for the Office for Standards in Education, but obviously that's way out of date. According to one Catholic priest consulted at a seminar, the true acronym is Oh Father Send Them Eternal Damnation. (He sent them Chris Woodhead, which is not the same thing at all.)

The Scrooge award for most cynical Christmas card: the home-made effort from Tony Henry, principal of East Birmingham College. His message? "Peace on Earth, Goodwill to all people ... especially if they are: unemployed, ESF eligible, are on an agricultural NVQ 3, delivered by APL and Open Learning, with an additional support costing exactly Pounds 601, with two small children and a granny, in prison so unable to withdraw from programme."

The Cod Fax award for most hopeless protest of the year: presented to the donkey-jacketed deputation of National Union of Teachers left-wingers that picketed The Guardian for an audience with the paper's education editor after it emerged that the testing boycott was off. "Our executive won't listen to us, but you will," they whined. A pity their protest clashed with Gillian Shephard's Christmas party...

And finally, the Tony Blair award for most tasteful school story (Prize: a golden raspberry) goes to Hillcrest School in Hastings where one pupil, 15-year-old Wayne Brown, will be cooling his heels at home until mid-January. His crime? "Breaking wind in class and turning it into a joke, thus preventing other pupils from working." Detention was ordered, Wayne's parents Melvyn and Lynda refused permission, and the whole stink blew up from there.

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