Diary

17th April 1998 at 01:00
Britain has a noble history of maverick rebels who have challenged the rule of law for what they believe is a higher principle.

Robin Hood, the Tolpuddle Martyrs, and the suffragettes all broke the law to create a better society - and some paid the price for it in the process.

Now Carborundum can add another name, someone who in his own small way is making a stand - in this case to improve the lot of (you'll be pleased to hear) teachers.

Step forward Graham Lane, bashful education chair of the Local Government Association, who has taken unilateral action on that most annoying of legal obligations, the annual school governors' meeting for parents.

These meetings, which all schools must by law hold once a year but which few parents ever attend, have been singled out by some teachers' leaders as one of the first things to go in the fight against unnecessary bureaucracy.

But we can reveal that Mr Lane, chairman of governors at a school in his home borough of Newham, east London, has already acted - his school has just stopped holding them, in flagrant breach of the law.

And he admits he is prepared to face the authorities over his actions. "People tell me I'm breaking the law," he boasts. "I just say: 'Call the police then'".

All recipes for cakes containing jailbreaking equipment should be forwarded to Chateau Carborundum as soon as possible.

Carborundum can report a marvellous instance of the cart coming before the horse.

Almost two years after TWA Flight 800 crashed into the sea off Long Island, New York, killing all 230 passengers and crew , investigators concluded last week that an electrical fault in the fuel tank probably caused the fatal explosion.

But their painstaking research has taken so long that their recommendations on future air safety came out one month after academics at Leicester University produced an investigation into the investigation.

Leicester's Scarman Centre for the Study of Public Order looked at the impact that the FBI's theory of a terrorist bomb or missile attack had on the investigative team's attempts to get at the truth.

The terrorist theory was finally discarded last year after the National Transportation Safety Board concluded there was no evidence to support it.

Leicester's Dr Simon Bennett says the US let its view of itself as a hapless victim of home-grown or internationally-sponsored terrorism cloud its judgment.

The NTSB stayed objective but was still obliged to challenge the consensus - something which took "time and money - resources the NTSB was short of", the report says.

Fortunately Leicester University isn't constrained by such a weight of public opinion - with the result that its own research can be concluded that much more quickly ...

As Easter wears on, and the brotherly (and sisterly) love of the teacher union conferences is spilled across the nation's television screens nightly, it is always a matter of awe and wonder to Carborundum that no one is actually murdered during these events.

And it turns out that it is not just Carborundum who keeps superstitious fingers crossed for peace. Apparently Association of Teachers and Lecturers officials spent a nervous couple of hours recently glued to an episode of the faintly bucolic Midsomer Murders, a telly detective show starring John Nettles.

The series starred a murderous teacher in one episode. The worry? The on-set staffroom included a poster for the ATL and the fear was that the baddie would turn out to be a member. It's not good for recruitment, you know.

Still, if unions had wanted to organise a good lynching the prime culprit might be one M G Mollart, who wrote a letter to his (or her) local paper recently, suggesting ways in which councils might cut costs for local taxpayers. "Why don't councils use school teachers during their long summer break to cover other council workers' holidays? They could tackle all duties, ie., clerical, hospital, refuse disposal, park attendants - the list is endless."

The line between parody and the English education system is wearing a little too thin for some teachers, it seems.

A company called Courseware Productions, which produces Jim Sweetman's English books for secondary schools, is in the habit of sending out jokey flyers. The most recent carried a spoof news item about the introduction of a Grammar House in which children would chant the names of parts of speech in unison, there would be whole-class teaching of subjunctive tenses for 12-year-olds and the neat copying of Old Testament verses in joined-up writing would be encouraged.

Real books would be replaced by specially devised texts, some written especially for boys. The first of these would be called "Woodhead Messes Up" and would be available from September.

On April 2 the company took an anxious call from a teacher desperate to know when all this was going to start. Or was it - please say it was - just an April Fool's joke?

Carborundum

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