Diary

16th June 1995 at 01:00
The Diary's warmest congratulations to cuddly Doug McAvoy, supreme being of the National Union of Teachers, who has finally plighted his troth to long-standing paramour Elaine Darbyshire.

This happy event - predicted for some time by Carborundum - eventually took place in conditions of secrecy so strict that many of the couple's close colleagues are somewhat miffed not to have been issued with invitations. And those who were, seem to have been simultaneously issued with a three-line whip to stay silent.

Known facts, such as they are, appear to be that the ceremony took place the Saturday before last. The reception was subsequently held at the NUT's training and junketing centre, Stoke Rochford, a venue not a million miles from Grantham.

The other undeniable fact is that the bride was so heavily pregnant that she may even have produced the baby since the Diary went to press - a slightly puzzling time to wed, since imminent motherhood is generally associated with swollen ankles and extreme tiredness rather than dewy-eyed radiance. Certainly the expected arrival of Junior was cited as the reason why Doug skipped an important seminar at the Commons earlier this week, although curiously it does not appear to have hampered his briefing of lobby journalists on how impressed his members in grant-maintained schools were with all the benefits extra lolly can bring.

Election news: Cold comfort for Labour leader Tony Blair in the Socialist Education Association ballot, the results of which have just been announced.

The candidate who came top in the national executive ballot was one Paul Barasi. His unique selling point? A biographical entry reading: "If you think Tony Blair should have sent his son to the Oratory, don't vote for me." A former policy adviser at the Inner London Education Authority, curiously he now works for an outfit called Sensible Drinking.

Meanwhile, bottom of the heap was poor old Marian Darke, fresh from her failure to beat Steve Sinnott or Mary Hufford in the race to become deputy general secretary of the NUT.

Marian won 44 votes, which sounds slightly less risible in the light of information that only 138 out of the SEA's 1,400 members bothered to send their papers in.

Well, actually 139 keen educationists replied - but one paper was spoiled. How? "They forgot to sign it," groans SEA leading light Graham Lane.

Meanwhile, the Secondary Heads Association decided to be revolutionary and break with tradition by voting in as new vice-president one Peter Miller who is (a) their first from a grant-maintained school and (b) the first to be just a deputy.

More riveting facts for anoraks: the rule change which allowed such lowly beings to assume lofty office in SHA was engineered through around a decade ago by general secretary John Sutton and Chris Lowe, The World's Most Famous Headmaster. Last Friday, the day of the council's earth-shattering vote, marked both Mr Lowe's departure from that august body and Mr Sutton's birthday.

And meanwhile, on the subject of Chris Lowe: the Diary's attention has been drawn to a curious tale he told at the European Secondary Heads' Association conference in Helsinki recently. Apparently Mr Lowe, head of Prince William School in Oundle, had just endured some late nights signing sixth-formers' reports with a sedate "C J Lowe".

Imagine his surprise, then, when he awoke one morning, flicked through the pile, and discovered he had signed the assessment on "a gorgeous blonde 18-year-old" with a rather more friendly "Love, Chris". The reaction of Mrs Lowe, sitting in the audience, is not recorded.

Student life, 1995-style (1): Sunny Sussex university has just launched the Love From Home scheme which apparently "enables families of students to treat their loved ones to delicious freshly-baked cakes and pastries, no matter how far away they are".

Although the order forms went out only last week, this updated version of the tuckbox appears to be taking off in a big way.

"We've had dozens of enquiries," Rebekah Reid of the Alumni office told university magazine Bulletin. "We've even had an order from Finland. It's an extension of the Parent Programme which enables families to stay in touch. It's also excellent value.

"A fresh cream strawberry gateau which serves 10 is only Pounds 11.50, or there's the Chocoholic's Dream - 20 cakes for just Pounds 15. When you think of the price of flowers it's a bargain, and you can't eat flowers."

Student life, 1995-style (2): A new course is being offered by Southampton Institute and the University of Alicante in Spain - a BA (Hons) degree in Maritime Leisure Management.

We quote the press release. "This is a unique opportunity for students. On offer to them is the chance to study for their degree with some of the best maritime instructors, while enjoying superb facilities with the University of Alicante, plus they have the Mediterranean on their doorstep to enjoy year-round sailing and as an added bonus they should come away with Spanish as a second language."

For just Pounds 6,500 a year, students starting in September will get self-catering accommodation and a free language induction course in either English or Spanish, as well as all the degree-type things.

"The entrants can be students fresh from school or college, or mature students wanting a career change, or even those who missed out on the university experience and want to prove they can take a degree, only this one is more pleasurable than 'Mathematics in Manchester'." Good grief.

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