11th November 1994 at 00:00
Internecine warfare is breaking out in the dog-eat-dog world of further education. And it's all over the right to tape educational television programmes for later use.

It was news to Carborundum, but a shadowy organisation called the Educational Recording Agency licenses - for the payment of a small fee - schools and colleges to tape for their own use. In the past, only the Association for Colleges negotiated with the agency, organising itself a discount on the fee for its members.

This did not please the wily Roger Ward, gauleiter of rival outfit, the Colleges' Employers' Forum. He wanted a piece of the action for his members, so last year the agency said either organisation could get the discount if it could muster 100 colleges. This the AfC managed. The CEF did not, failing to muster more than 70. Undaunted, Mr W made up the discount to his colleges from CEF funds, while successfully plotting to hit the target this year.

Sensibly, the two groups decided to act in tandem this year and so Ruth Gee, chief executive of the AfC, instructed solicitors on behalf of both. Or so she thought.

Imagine her surprise, then, to discover that her demonic opposite number had quietly instructed his own firm and claimed the credit when the agency agreed terms. And how did she learn about this? A letter whizzed out from the Ward word processor, claiming: "Arising from the CEF-funded . . . initiative, the ERA have generously offered to reinstate the original discount to our members. "

Ms Gee did not agree, as her own bulletin, sent out two days later, made abundantly clear. Members of both organisations would benefit, she wrote acidly, accusing Mr W of "trying to gain credit for an issue which . . . is the result of efforts by both AfC and CEF."

Sadly, there is little prospect of Mr Ward extending the olive branch to Ms Gee in his time-honoured fashion with the comforting pop of a champagne cork. Alarmed at the increasing strain on the seams of his immaculately tailored shirts and suits, Mr W is on a strict diet to reduce his frame from 121Z2 to 101Z2 stone.

Accordingly, the black fridge in his office - installed for the sole purpose of chilling the Pol Roger - is remaining locked until Christmas Eve.

A curiously timely tale reaches us from the Schools Curriculum and Assessment Authority, which finally released the fruits of its labour to a waiting world this week. It concerns those wildly exciting lists of approved authors.

Apparently there has been some disquiet in Notting Hill Gate about the composition of said lists, with many suggestions as to possible additions. One obvious addition to the Four Playwrights canon would seem to be Victorian wit Oscar Wilde, whose writings fill pages in most quotations dictionaries.

Impossible, ruled one SCAA bigwig. On what grounds? "We don't want homosexuals on the national curriculum," he explained.

Considering the nature of the 20th-century authors list - 11 men and just one woman (Muriel Spark, best known for her politically incorrect teacher, Miss Jean Brodie) -this seems an extraordinary distinction to make. After all, some colourful predilections are represented among those authors deemed suitable for children - TS Eliot, a noted anti-Semite; Philip Larkin, misogynist and misanthropist; and poet RS Thomas, who has opined that the burning of holiday cottages by Welsh nationalists is not a crime.

We suspect Oscar is tittering in his grave.

For once, Carborundum wants to be invited to an educational conference. Even one on "Planning Middle Level Schools for the 21st Century". After all, we can think of few conferences taking part on a luxury cruise from Miami to the Bahamas, and even fewer on the enticingly-named SS Ecstasy. Sounds like it could be a real rave.

But if the office sleaze budget won't run to a Bahamian cruise, Carborundum would almost settle for the bus fare to the London borough of Lewisham. The chance to be a fly on the wall at the council's current course for employees might almost be as good as a trip on the SS Ecstasy. The subject? "Charisma in the Workplace."

Last year Stoproveritate, the school racehorse, had his 15 minutes of fame. This year it is the turn of Sid, the school snake. And oddly enough, both are connected to Malsis Prep, situated somewhere in the wilds of North Yorkshire between Keighley and Skipton.

Something about Malsis's talent with small boys obviously rubs off when it comes to dumb animals. Parents who were lucky enough to join the school syndicate - shades of St Trinian's here - have done quite nicely thank-you out of Stoproveritate, the nag which has been first past the post on a comfortable number of occasions. The school's tolerance appears to run to personal pets. A major search of tuck boxes and the like was instituted just before half-term, when Malcolm Duxbury, 12, came to pack his pet red-sided garter snake, Sid, to take him home for the holidays - and found he had slithered away.

No doubt to the silent joy of Mrs Duxbury, Sid could not be found. By the end of half-term, Malcolm had all but given up hope of meeting his writhing friend once more and was resorting to his other hobby of playing the tuba (would you want to live next door to this family?).

To Malcolm's surprise, the tuba was making far stranger noises than usual and after a few minutes he removed the mouthpiece and peered into the dark. You've guessed it. Out popped Sid.

Said a school source: "This is a very musical school with lots of boys wanting to play instruments, but I've never heard of a snake wanting to play a tuba before."

Malsis - no more, please.

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