27th September 1996 at 01:00
Groans of horror are echoing around the Department for Education and Employment and two of its quangos in the wake of the Great Naming Fiasco.

Readers will recall that last week the launch of the merged School Curriculum and Assessment AuthorityNational Council for Vocational Qualifications was hurriedly put on hold after an alert executive spotted that the chosen name made the risible acronym QUACC. No one, apparently, had thought this one through until a phone call from a horrified Sir Ron Dearing, SCAA chairman, reached the private office of Education and Employment Secretary Gillian Shephard.

Once QUACC was halted, everyone settled down to await the usual dull educational acronym. So imagine the horror of one Tony Millns, publicity supremo at SCAA, upon discovering minutes before the official announcement that the new body was to be called the Qualifications and National Curriculum Authority. Acronym QNCA, which sounds like . . . something the instigators had obviously not taken into consideration.

"What do you think they are going to call the staff of this organisation?" wails one who may soon find out. Suffice it to say that there are lots of unprintable jokes doing the rounds of the DFEE, SCAA and the NCVQ, as well as Hyacinth Bucket-type attempts at posh pronunciation.

So who have we to blame for this appalling acronym?

Sources suggest that this time the name came, not from the quango-weary DFEE (which was fortuitously persuaded at the last minute to swap "Enterprise" for "Industry" in Training and Enterprise Councils), but Number 10 itself. Famous though the man in charge there is for his clunking use of Shakespeare's tongue, it is going a little far to blame this on him, and so we shall have to settle for some anonymous minion.

What rationale, Carborundum wonders, lay behind the eventual choice of words? "The NCVQ insisted that qualifications had to be the first word, because otherwise it would sound like it was to do with schools and put off the employers. And it couldn't start with national - which would have been safer - because the Scots would have objected." What a load of QNCAs.

Let us dally for a while on the subject of educational acronyms dreamed up by people whose overuse of useful little adjectives such as rigour and vigour obviously does not carry through into practical application when it comes to naming things.

You may have seen advertisements for Edexcel, the bizarre monicker given to the conjoining of BTEC (vocational qualifications lot) with ULEAC (London University academic qualifications lot). But despite all those pictures of fresh-faced young students, few people seem to know what Edexcel actually is.

Carborundum's Top Five of likely definitions, gleaned from talking to those who really ought to know the truth, runs thus: 1 Laxative; 2 Medicated loo roll; 3 A well-known analgesic; 4 A teenage cosmetic spot-concealer; 5 Therapy for baldness among middle-aged men.

Meanwhile, it's nice to see that Lewisham College is taking this important new development so seriously. In said giant adverts for Edexcel, chief executive Tina Townsend writes: "As I look to the future, I am aware that one question that parents, employers, teachers and admissions tutors will often ask is: 'Why should I choose an Edexcel student?'." (As far as Carborundum is aware, most parents don't even get to choose boy or girl, let alone a student - but perhaps we're being pedantic.) Anyway, Lewisham's registry team is also asking why indeed, and an unnamed prize is being offered for the best answer in under 25 words.

Meanwhile, it seems the attempts of lay inspectors to blend into the scenery in primary schools are doomed to failure, if the research from a Manchester Metropolitan University team is anything to go by.

Geoff Stone and David Hustler tell the heart-rending tale of one such Tail End Charlie on what, we hope, was his first foray into the world of children. The lay inspector made it his business to have lunch with the reception class and mix with the children. Squashed on to an infant-size chair, he began tucking into a lunch set out on the table. He became aware of a child in tears and an angry lunch-time helper asked him what he thought he was doing. "Eating my lunch," came the reply. "No, you're eating Kevin's lunch," was the rejoinder. The matter was resolved by the child getting the inspector's lunch, with two sausages instead of one.

But perhaps it's just that school dinners are a danger area. The headteacher apparently reserved more scorn for the lay inspector heard enquiring pompously of a five-year-old: "How do you get on with the lunch-time supervisor?"

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