16th December 1994 at 00:00
John McIntosh, head of the ever-controversial London Oratory School, has kept some interesting and influential company. He was, for example, on the advisory council of the Educational Research Trust, a colourful slice of the British intellectual Right which included Professor Antony Flew, Lord Griffiths, Lord Harris of High Cross, Professor Friedrich Hayek, Professor David Marsland, and Professor Arthur Pollard.

More to the point, this was the organisation which in 1988 published The Crisis in Religious Education a document offending most non-Christian groups and many Christian ones by describing multi-faith RE as "a mess of secular pottage". Calling for stiffer doses of Christianity in school, authors Colin Hart and John Burn linked a collapse in respect for authority to, among other things, the "fading away of daily school worship" and "multi-faith relativism".

The document was circulated to MPs during the passage of the 1988 Education Reform Act and its sponsors were rewarded with the notoriously tricky demands for daily Christian worship and religious education to "reflect" the fact that Britain's traditions are mainly Christian.

Colin Hart is director of the traditionalist Christian Institute - an organisation which once attacked the Association of Christian Teachers for "advancing the cause of paganism".

Conservative MP Harry Greenway advanced the cause of Christianity on BBC Radio's Sunday programme this week when he tackled Trevor Cooling, secretary of the Evangelical Alliance.

What irked Harry was the Alliance's recent statement to the effect that daily acts of Christian worship are a silly imposition. "If teachers can't be found to take Christian assemblies," Harry expostulated, "there's always the local vicar."

Careful, Harry one or two of those have been caught recently saying they don't believe in God.

A star-studded cast has been jostling for the vacant post of director of education in Haringey (Tottenham to you and me).

Step forward Jackie Tonge, who after 15 months of suspension and a sacking at Calderdale has landed on her feet. Jackie was run a close second by Bebb Burchell, who has presided over Lambeth since 1990 but apparently believes the grass is greener in North London.

In another blow for community relations the School Curriculum and Assessment Authority has scheduled the week of key stage 3 standard assessment tasks for the week of the Muslim Eid festival.

In particular, the maths and science tests will be on Tuesday and Wednesday, May 9 and 10 - Eid itself. As many children take three days off for the celebrations - with the blessing of some LEAs, such as Birmingham - neither parents nor schools are best pleased.

SCAA told one aggravated Birmingham headteacher explains that, yes, it knew about the clash of dates but didn't figure that the children would take more than one day off. It also blamed the "surprise" announcement of a VE Day public holiday on Monday May 8.

To the nerve centre of the Rapid Response Unit, otherwise known as the Secondary Heads Association, whose Leicester HQ is sporting a new annexe. Puzzlement abounds, however, as the supremos consider quite what to call the new addition to their empire. Knowing the depth of the hurt caused by previous suggestions that SHA reacts to the march of events "with the speed of a striking hedgehog", Carborundum offers up "The Cobra Facility" as a fitting sort of title and a gesture of goodwill.

A gaggle of education hacks can count themselves lucky not to be barred from the precincts of Westminster together with the Blairgate intruders. The journos were in search of a party being thrown in the Shadow Cabinet office last week by Labour party education spokesman David Blunkett, but roamed the corridors of Parliament for a full half-hour, misdirected from lobby to post by bemused flunkeys and helpful policemen. At one point they were even sent to Tony Blair's private office, but resisted the temptation to pop inside - doubtful, perhaps, as to whom they might find in there.

Labour's change of direction on school league tables and the decision by Tony Blair to apply to send his son, Euan, to an opted-out Catholic school eight miles from home, have fuelled old rivalries in the People's Party.

Former deputy leader, and man of letters, Roy Hattersley can stomach neither David Blunkett's penchant for league tables nor his apparent warmth towards the principle of "choice". He has made this much cruelly plain in private and in front of the assembled Parliamentary Party.

The obvious explanation is Hattersley's passionate belief that comprehensive schools have been one of Labour's biggest successes. They should, he says, be defended from the currently fashionable emphasis on choice and diversity (Eg: specialist schools.) But Carborundum's mole assures us that the vehemence with which this contretemps is being waged has just as much to do with their common roots in the distant past of Sheffield Labour party.

A tenner for any further information from the City of Steel.

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