15th September 1995 at 01:00
Back from the UN Women's Conference in Beijing, junior education minister Cheryl Gillan has been reunited with her much-loved but troublesome dog Tizzy.

The poor hound, who shares her daily sojourn in the salt mines of assisted places and school dinners, goes crazy at the merest whisper of the word "walk", naturally hopeful of an early escape from the supreme boredom of Sanctuary Buildings. The w-word is consequently banned; which leaves the civil servants mouthing such elegant circumlocutions as "the ambulatory distance to school".

Mrs Gillan, who is also minister for women, can be grateful that rights for dogs are rather more developed here than in the Far East where stern, not to say culinary, measures have been adopted with recalcitrant canines.

A further extract from The Book of Woodhead ( that is, the latest corporate plan from the Office for Standards in Education) : "The main reason why the cash plans for 1995-96 and 1996-97 are lower than those published a year ago is that the revised plans reflect further end-loading of the primary and special school inspection cycle which was considered necessary to bring inspection plans into line with forecast market conditions."

What does it mean? Chris Woodhead, the chief inspector, appears to be saying that OFSTED needs less money because . . . it won't actually be doing all those primary inspections it promised to do.

Mrs Shephard's campaigners for better English should take note.

The Daily Mail awaits possible legal action from no less a figure than Bernie Regan, long-standing London representative of the National Union of Teachers. Or as the Mail preferred to describe him earlier this year, "far-left general and a founder member of the extreme militant faction, the Socialist Teachers' Alliance". Worse was to come as the Mail continued its account of a forthcoming London demonstration by the Fight Against Cuts in Education (FACE) with the bizarre assertion that Mr Regan's mere presence has raised speculation that there might be violence at the demo. Mr Regan, it is understood, was less than amused.

The Department for Education and Employment has contradictory views on the issue of publicity. Imagine the plight of a freelance journalist inspired to write a feature on the little-known public information office at the department. Situated just to the right of the main entrance the office allows a hungry Joe Public to drop in for the latest policy details, an example of Citizen's-Charter-style openness perhaps. "Yes, we'd be happy to let you interview us," say occupants of this fine but underused resource.

"Except that you can't," add the information Stasi in the DFEE press office. "You are a journalist and if you want an interview it has to be an accompanied briefing with someone else who doesn't actually work in the office."

Result: no free publicity. This year the Department is spending Pounds 5.53million informing the public.

Watch what you drink at Bilston College. This surprising outpost of Russian "capitalism" has, thanks to some imaginative business contacts out there, been landed with with a shipment of Russian champagne at next to no cost. Undrinkable Russian champagne, as it transpires. Beyond even the Black Country off-licensees who have comprehensively refused to purchase the crates of liquid Glasnost (which may or may not be in its favour).

So the college is giving it to guests instead. "It's not bad if you're already drunk," explained Richard Donoghue, director of the Bilston College commercial arm, Stowlawn Ltd. The staff have been urging the stuff on all-comers, terrified lest the champagne lake, stored in mountain form at the college rear, explode during the hot weather.

Stowlawn's educational interests extend to the Moscow-based British College of Banking and Finance in Russia. Will there be a parallel operation to foist the faggot - a mushy, morale-sapping Black Country meat dish - on astonished Muscovites?

The population of Kent is not what it seemed. The Garden of England is apparently seething with white South Africans escaping the clutches of peace and democracy. Princess Diana's old school, West Heath School, is now attempting to capitalise by advertising for new South African recruits, at least according to the September edition of South Africa News. "South Africa made a lot of sense because there are a lot of South Africans in this part of the country," explained a spokesman. If its most famous old girl is a measure, the gals will have no truck with "hot housing" or any other such disreputable academic practice.

David Blunkett reveals a poetic talent in his forthcoming autobiography, "On a Clear Day". Those expecting northern grit are in for a shock, as is anyone else who turns to page 173 for a taste of the Sheffield muse. Here the poesy turns to Wimbledon and tennis, that well-known pursuit of steelworkers: Indeed we are.

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