25th November 1994 at 00:00
As if the news about Mrs Thatcher's coat of arms - apparently featuring Captain Birdseye - were not enough, we now have the spectre of the grant-maintained sector being in possession of its own customised regalia.

But as with everything else concerning the Grant-Maintained Schools Centre, Foundation and Charitable Trust, the story is far from straightforward, as the main protagonists admit. "It is jolly complicated," GM grandee Sir Bob Balchin concedes.

The undisputed parts of the tale are as follows: four or five years ago Sir Bob commissioned a coat-of-arms for the Grant-Maintained Schools Foundation. It was all his own idea: the steelmaker's son is fascinated by the art and has had his own arms - an adaptation of one held by distant forbear, Admiral Sir John Balchin - since 1973.

Said work has now been completed, and was ceremonially handed over by Sir Conrad Swan, the Garter King of Arms, in a bit of a do at the Haberdashers' Hall in London, laid on by the Grant-Maintained Schools Centre. (Pay attention, this is the easy bit).

The design, apparently, is rather fetching and includes open books (signifying learning), a diagonal sheaf of computer paper punched with 18 holes (signifying new technology and the first 18 schools), and a dragon and a lion (England and Wales). Atop the lot is a crenellated wall (signifying local authorities) out of which rises a phoenix (draw your own conclusions).

But then come the disputed bits. For one thing, to whom should the arms rightfully belong? Carborundum's mole says the foundation for which they were originally commissioned has been transmogrified into the GMS Charitable Trust, a semi-defunct body. Sir Robert says the arms were commissioned for the foundation and that the foundation is where they belong. The accompanying Patent, he says, makes clear the changes to the organisation. Anyway, a replica will hang in the foundation's Smith Square foyer, while the original vellum sits in its box in the bank or Sir Bob's office.

There is also the little matter of the do itself, at which Education Secretary Gillian Shephard spoke and was undoubtedly a draw to sell tickets, which cost not unadjacent to Pounds 50 a head. This was actually run by the GMSC - a commercial outfit - which might reasonably have been expected to have made a profit on the evening. Which surely means that it was rather naughty to have invited Mrs Shephard along as the main speaker.

"We'd be very surprised if we made anything like Pounds 1,000 for the night. And anyway, you don't think organisations like the National Association of Head Teachers don't make a profit out of their conferences, and Government ministers speak there," hisses an anonymous source within the Centre.

Perhaps the final word in all this should go to Sir Bob, answering a question which Carborundum did not ask. "I thought it would be very nice if we had a coat of arms, but it wasn't paid for by public funds." And that was all he would say.

Every Diary has to have its own pantomime villain, and ours just happens to be the demonic Roger Ward, supremo of the College Employers' Forum and scourge of leather-jacketed lecturers.

Those in the know say his main preoccupation at present is his cholesterol level and the resulting low-calorie diet: the main preoccupation of the nation's lecturers is the terms and conditions under which he has been confirmed as full-time chief executive of the CEF.

Since winning the post through competitive tender 18 months ago, Mr W has been a part-timer on a temporary contract. Understandably, there was great interest in this state of affairs and at the CEF's annual jolly this year it was promised that henceforth all jobs would be properly advertised and members consulted. Imagine the surprise, therefore, when it became known that Roger was no longer the lodger in the post but was now both permanent and full-time - without so much as a sniff of an advertisement or consultation.

The stories grew more outlandish. Not only was Mr W said to be earning a sum not unadjacent to Pounds 70,000 (and presumably an unlimited Champagne budget) but that was believed to be bolstered by a company Jaguar and - adding insult to injury in the current college climate - a year's redundancy agreement. All of which ought to make him a very jolly Roger.

So Carborundum rang him up, to demand why the chief executiveship had not been advertised as promised. "What was said," he explained smoothly, "was that new posts would be subject to advertisement. I have been in the longest-ever trial for the full-time job. My job had been advertised and I had been in competition for it, but had never been confirmed."

Sadly, Mr W also denies the redundancy part of the package. What about the Jag? It exists, confirms Mr Ward - but belongs to him and did not come with the job. But, despite the Champagne-free diet, there is a touch of the old Roger left.

"It's just an old Jaguar sports car," he said in Mr Toadish tones of pride. "But it has got personalised RW number plates."

There are some wicked people about. Take those teachers at Yatton Junior School in Bristol, who have snitched - there is no better word - on the activities of a "much respected" colleague in the days when he or she was "a naive yet very enthusiastic" trainee. Since Carborundum isn't famed for being nice, either, we print the offending worksheet without further apology. "Wind Power... Working with a partner think of as many ways as you can of producing your own wind. You can use paper if you wish but you do not have to." Sadly, the reaction of the class on which this was tried is not recorded.

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