30th January 1998 at 00:00
War has been declared in the Socialist Educational Association - or at least, the war of the faxes. Machines the length and breadth of London have been occupied churning out entirely contradictory versions of what sounds like an extraordinary national executive meeting last Saturday.

Readers may recall that this mighty arm of the Labour party - a society to which such luminaries as Man To Watch, education minister Steve Byers, belong - has been locked in schism for months. Earlier this month general secretary Graham Lane announced his intention not to stand again for the post - and possibly even to let his membership lapse altogether. His explanation has been that the dispute has been over the position of the SEA vis a vis the Labour Government.

The first of a flurry of officially-headed faxes arrived on Saturday, from the chair Max Morris and "12 longstanding SEA members", which called on Mr Lane to resign forthwith. Its companion fax added that Mr Morris had no alternative but to close the meeting, but: "A number of members remained and held a meeting, despite the fact that it had no constitutional basis."

Whatever could have happened? It didn't take long to find out, with a press release (and resolution) from Graham Lane and SEA press officer steaming their way out of the fax. Also, we might add, on official headed paper.

This one began equally dramatically. "The SEA's NEC has sacked itself and called for a fresh election in an attempt to overcome the internal split which has dogged the Labour party's education think-tank ever since the general election."

This continued with the revelation that Mr Morris had "tried to close the meeting after just five minutes", before walking out with seven other members.

Thoroughly bemused by all this, Carborundum put in a few calls.

First of all, we got Mr Morris's version. "Whatever Graham is telling you happened after the meeting closed has no validity," he explains. So the entire executive isn't resigning, then? "You just can't carry on unofficially and make these decisions."

What about the root of the problems? Is it all about the SEA and Labour? Mr Morris snorts. "Absolute rubbish and poppycock."

Not according to Mr Lane, who adds that it is now all down to the electorate. "I'm not standing, so I've got no axe to grind. And Max keeps pointing out he's the nationally elected chair - but everyone on the NEC is nationally elected. And at that meeting, seven walked out but 20 stayed."

So over to Paul Barasi, the press officer, who explains smoothly that Mr Morris's closing of the meeting was itself invalid because a 17-7 vote of no confidence last summer removed him from the chair of the executive committee. "He has continued as the chair of the association but doesn't chair the NEC," he explains.

Ah. So the whole of the NEC - including Mr Morris - is up for re-election, then? "If they choose to stand."

Watch this space.

To be a teacher you need to like children, be good at explaining things and have a sense of humour. You also need to be very organised and very patient. " No mention of those time-consuming training courses in A Day in the Life of a Teacher, a forthcoming title in the Franklin Watts series of children's guides to jobs, in which author Carol Watson follows Sonia Harvey, of Grove Park primary in Chiswick, west London, through a typical day.

At least the companion volume, A Day in the Life of a Bus Driver, mentions the need for a driving licence. The teacher title does have useful follow-up activities, though, such as: "Play teacher - give each other tests".

Fun and games at lecturers' union NATFHE where officials have been daydreaming about a powerful super-union for all university and college lecturers.

Paul Mackney, the new NATFHE general secretary, has been talking to David Triesman of the Association of University Teachers about a possible merger.

Unfortunately for Mr Mackney, Mr Triesman is rather keen on swiping NATFHE's respectable membership in higher education, but distinctly iffy about letting in the hordes from further education colleges.

Still, it hasn't stopped the NATFHE crowd speculating dreamily, about what they might call a mega union. Top of the heap is the Federation of University and College Teachers. Or of course you could have the Federation of University, College and Adult Lecturers.

The good news is that there is, er, Federation of University College and Adult Lecturers' chance of a merger ever taking place.

And hot off the presses: mental arithmetic (as practised by S Byers) is out. It is now, officially, "mental strategies for calculation".

Many thanks to supply teacher agency ESS, which in a recent press release announced an agreement with a union leader called, entertainingly, Nigel de Grouchy.


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