30th August 1996 at 01:00
As if there was not enough turmoil in the world of further education, what with the cliffhanging finale to the appointment of a supremo at the new Association of Colleges (the revelation that Gillian Shephard's political adviser, Elizabeth Cottrell, is among the four candidates shortlisted will cause a few splutters), there are strong suspicions that Roger Ward and Ruth Gee have finally reached some kind of unholy accord.

Insiders at the AoC bunker have observed that the pair, who each ran the college employers' outfits merged to create the new organisation, have stopped fighting like cats in a sack and recently enjoyed rather a pally lunch together. What can all this mean?

Well, the favourite theory among the nervous rank and file, riven by old loyalties and contracts which differ markedly in little details (like permanence of tenure), is that Roger and Ruth have come to some sort of accommodation. Should one get the top job, they will do x or y for the other. Speculation on what x or y might be ranges wildly from the deputy's post to an immaculate job reference.

However, Carborundum suspects this is an overly conspiratorial theory. In the realisation that only one of them can get the job - and the victor could equally be Dr Cottrell or the Higher Education Funding Council's Roger Brown, they are simply stoically making the best of things and enjoying the employee's equivalent of the condemned man's hearty breakfast.

Schadenfreude is a dirty word. And an almost unspellable one, to boot. But it can be the only possible explanation for the arrival at Chateau Carborundum of the People page from an unidentified personnel magazine.

Buried deep in brief accounts of the comings and goings of what we must now call human resources executives is news of one Geoff Woolf, who "joins the firm after five years as general secretary of the university and college lecturers' union, NATFHE".

What firm, you ask. Refer back to the paragraph: "He has been appointed trade union manager at voucher supplier the LV group." Oh. Well, congratulations, Geoff.

But what's this? Roughly scribbled above this tale of human endeavour is a handwritten note: "!!!Ho!Ho!Roger." Who can this heartless person be?

Woolf is widely held to have lost the NATFHE job two years ago, at the end of his five-year contract, because members were disgruntled by his (ineffectual) tactic of bargaining over local terms and conditions to drive the Colleges' Employers' Forum back to the national negotiating table. Yes, the CEF, former fiefdom of R Ward.

It's a sure sign that an examination has truly come of age when the first calls for it to be scrapped on academic grounds are heard from former supporters, and so happy 10th birthday to the GCSE.

And glad tidings from the Durham Johnston school in Durham, where the Russian teacher recently phoned an unnamed exam board to ask when she could expect the results for the certificate in Russian studies. She was able to speak to the person in charge of the course, but was a little dubious about the reply. The official, you see, was not sure when the results would be published, but he thought it would be at about the same time as the O-levels came through.

Carborundum fears that the class-control skills of Watford maths master John Ashcroft could be stretched to their utmost in the first few days of term, after he achieved some notoriety in his local paper. It seems Mr A (we'll omit the name of his school) was three months late with his tax return and equally tardy about replying to two letters from the Inland Revenue. Imagine his surprise, however, when the next communication to plop on to his doormat was addressed to Mr Bollocks.

"I dread to think what the postman made of it," confided Mrs A. Her furious husband, meanwhile, was busy firing off letters of complaint which merely elicited the response that "human error" was to blame and no further action would be taken.

A fuming Mr Ashcroft told the paper: "I believe I should now be exempt from taxes. They may think it's a laugh, but I don't." Prudently, he added: "If one of my pupils addressed me like that I would expect them to be suspended. " Children, you have been warned.

An interesting, if unscientific, market research project was carried out recently by Demitri Coryton, publisher of Education Journal. Plugging his wares at one of the summer's many conferences, he laid out neat piles of EJ's first two editions for delegates to take, free. It did not take long for the first edition to disappear, but the pile of the second took an alarmingly long time to go.

The reason? The cover of the first featured a cute picture of the infant Coryton twins. While the second was adorned with a mugshot of The Man Who Inspects Schools for the Queen, Chris Woodhead. Perhaps this explains why edition three is decorated with a fetching picture of a Coryton niece with her cello.

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