14th July 1995 at 01:00
How uncharitable the education world can be. Before the ink had dried on the shotgun marriage certificate of the education and employment departments, Carborundum was being deluged by suggestions that some people had been better informed about the bride and groom's intentions - and which title the happy couple would choose - than others.

First came a missive, dated July 5, the day of the wedding. Headlined "Department for Education and Employment", it outlined the effects of the union. Page two, however, announced the appointment of former defence minister Lord Henley to "the Department of Education and Employment" - a slip that would be more understandable if the letterhead did not say 10 Downing Street.

Another organisation received a list of this week's Select Committee meetings from Westminster on Monday. The paper announces that at 4.15pm on Tuesday, almost a week after the merger, the Employment Committee is to discuss "the work of the Employment Department", with the Permanent Secretary Michael Bichard called as a witness to, presumably, justify its existence. "Events have rather overtaken us," admitted the committee's clerk sheepishly on Tuesday morning. "I expect that the focus of the meeting will have changed."

Quite so, but the same piece of paper advertises another meeting, this time of the Education Committee, which is to discuss education and training for 14 to 19-year olds, attended by "officials from the Department for Education and Employment".

Talking of nuptials, how's this for entrepreneurial flair? Hinchingbrooke School, in John Major's Huntingdon back yard, headed by ex-president of the Secondary Heads Association Peter Downes, has applied for a special licence to hold weddings. The school may be a humble comprehensive, but it is housed in the childhood home of Oliver Cromwell.

Mr Downes looks forward to being one of a panel of registrars. "We've done wedding receptions for years ... now we can offer a complete package. It's a pity that marriage is less popular than it was; we could do with the extra revenue."

Eric Forth, the affable education minister, received a less than ecstatic reception at the Music for Youth conference last week. However, it seems they were lucky to see him at all. When one of the conference organisers rang his office beforehand to check on arrangements, staff there had never heard of the Queen Elizabeth Hall, where the conference was held, or even of the South Bank.

As the summer break looms, parents in Norfolk will be relieved to learn that one spectre will not be returning to haunt them - the vacation project in which they are roped in to "help" their offspring create a model of the Holy Roman Empire or Bismarck's foreign policy out of the cardboard interiors of toilet rolls. The county's education department has, quite sensibly, banned their use as a precaution after outbreaks of dysentery in the area. Parents are apt to blame the BBC's Blue Peter for inspiring Sisyphean tasks with toilet roll innards, but a spokeswoman insisted they had not been used for five years, on hygiene grounds. "We use kitchen rolls instead," she said.

While on the subject of holidays, does anybody ever read British Airways' in-flight organ, High Life? This month's issue looks at education, but not as we know it. Three glossy pages are taken up with an open letter to Prince William from a certain Canon Roger Royle, former senior chaplain at Eton, who explains in bemusing detail how the poor child should conduct himself at his new school.

Adopting the glutinously sycophantic and patronising tone that is de rigueur with royals, he says: "Your paternal great-grandmother, the Queen Mother, will be thrilled you are at Eton. She adores the place. The place adores her. " In an aside to the boy's mother, he continues "for heaven's sake, do make sure that you have your name on all your clothes," and offers glimpses of the parallel universe at Eton: "Get on the right side of your Boy's Maid, the lady who'll clean your room."

The article is thick with sinister warnings. William should adorn his room with family photos, says the Canon, but "make sure your decorations are wholesome. There should be no pictures that might embarrass your parents". This could be a tall order given the royals' decidedly untraditional domestic arrangements.

Finally, opines the Canon, "it would be as well to avoid the press". Particularly High Life magazine.

Meanwhile, on the playing fields of Northampton School for Boys, staff are apparently fighting a quixotic battle with an old enemy - the rabbit. The local population has exploded, as populations will do, and the little blighters are claiming Lebensraum in the school grounds.

The problem, says deputy head Vanessa Ray, is that the school's playing fields are not level, but separated by grassy banks, and the bunnies have designated these for their emergency housing programme. If the banks subside, a game of cricket might be in danger of sliding into a rugby match.

Northampton Boys is grant-maintained, so Ms Ray is reluctant to call in the council. "We've got a man who comes in with a ferret," she said plaintively, "but we have to keep that from the children ... I've been expecting hate mail from the Animal Liberation Front."

This school seems to be under siege from nature. The squirrels, Ms Ray added, are even worse than the rabbits.

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