Diary

15th November 1996 at 00:00
Just when you thought that the great and the good were all gainfully employed, along comes another quangoship to flush hitherto unknown names out of the woodwork.

The new job is the chairmanship of the Government's soon-to-be-merged curriculum advisory bodies, intended to be running as a shadow organisation next April.

A plus point is the salary: Pounds 55,000 for three days a week. A minus point is that the lucky candidate will become the figurehead of the Qualifications and National Curriculum Authority, the acronym of which should be pronounced to rhyme with ... work it out for yourselves.

Both Sir Ron Dearing and Dr Nick Tate, currently chairman and chief exec of the Schools Curriculum and Assessment Authority which will form QNCA with the National Council for Vocational Qualifications, are dismayed about the chosen name. "If it's called QNCA, what does that make us?" enquired one woefully. Perhaps he's seen the most unpleasant logo currently circulating courtesy of a filthy-minded artist.

But we digress. As always, the runners and riders are of interest, and the successful candidate may face a thankless task not dissimilar to that of the former head of The Ridings school: unite two different staff and two very different bodies, add a looming major curriculum review and worries about falling standards and vocational qualifications and stir with the possibility of a new party in government. Or even the same one again.

Another problemette which may account for the lack of names being bandied about is that, post Nolan, all candidates must fill in an application form. A tap on the shoulder filled most vacancies in the past, and the new ways may come as a bit of a culture shock. Moreover, Labour wants a say in the appointment.

Sir Ron, who has fixed education for the Government, might have been the natural choice, but he has ruled himself out because his higher education review comes to the boil when the merger requires most attention. His NCVQ counterpart Michael Heron is also believed unwilling to apply.

While both men's deputies could be interested in the post, as are a couple of unnamed Professors of Education ("not Michael Barber this time: perhaps next time," says our mole) the only name doing the rounds is that of the charming and ferociously well-informed Sir John Cassels, late of various quangoes including the National Economic Development Office and the Manpower Services Commission.

Another qualification is his role as director of the National Commission on Education. Or perhaps that's a disqualification, since the Commission has been a thorn in the Government's side since it was refused Royal status by one M. Thatcher.

An alternative scenario is doing the rounds. While Sir Ron has told Gillian Shephard that he will not apply, matters will become desperate and up will go that familiar cry: "Send for Sir Ron!" And then, as our informant puts it: "There will be some arm-twisting."

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