26th May 1995 at 01:00
It's been a bit of a year for Janet Paraskeva. The first few months were spent desperately fighting to save the National Youth Agency, of which she is director, from Death by Government Report. Then she was castigated by the tabloids as a Threat To The Nation's Youth for telling a drugs conference that cannabis should be legalised.

And now, she is apparently stepping out of the frying pan and into the fire by taking the post of director for England of the National Lotteries Charities Board, an organisation which has already run into controversy some five months before it distributes its first largesse, for a) spending almost Pounds 5 million setting itself up and b) effectively ruling medical charities out of its first tranche of bids.

Shielded by the safety of a telephone line, Carborundum cheerfully suggests Ms Paraskeva's latest career move might be seen as the chief rat deserting the sinking ship. "The NYA isn't sinking," she retorts. "If this had come up a few months ago it might have been different, but the situation is a lot better now. Before I go, the papers will have been prepared for whatever the Government decides and the new person can shape the NYA in their style, so I think it actually is a good time to go." Soundings among staff confirm that the mood about future prospects is, indeed, rosier than for months.

Moreover, it turns out that Ms P hadn't actually got around to updating her CV and was headhunted for the job "literally in the last few weeks". She adds: "I've been around for a long time, I'm 50 next year and I thought I'd probably got one more job in me. But I hadn't started reading The TES ads."

It is widely believed ministers wanted to curb the NYA's activities partly because of Ms P's outspoken ways. Little, it seems, has changed. "Four times in my career the Department for Education has threatened to take funding away from me - the first time in the 1970s when they didn't like a girls' work project I was doing - and it's gone from bad to worse culminating in what happened at the NYA. Now I'll be in a position to make money available instead. I think it's one of the most exciting jobs going."

Fashion victims who believe teachers and sociology lecturers are the last bastion of sandal-wearing in a largely civilised society must have had all their prejudices reinforced recently when Clarks shoes launched their latest, high-tech Jesus boot.

It's called the ATL. Which has had the Association of Teachers and Lecturers somewhat puzzled. "I've never even seen one of our members in a pair of sandals, and we'd love to know why they hit upon the name," protests one resolutely conventionally-shod union insider.

Equal surprise is professed down at Clarks HQ in deepest Somerset. "ATL stands for Action Trek Leather. You say there's a teachers' union of that name? We've never heard of it."

Carborundum reckons the whole saga demonstrates that perhaps the ATL should have put its hand into its tailored pocket when it changed its name from the Assistant Masters and Mistresses Association a couple of years ago and actually paid for a bit of publicity. But apparently the union got press coverage only second to the National Union of Teachers during the Easter conferences - and they had to get their militants to harangue the blind shadow education secretary.

However, there are bits of the Clarks advertising campaign which the union might wish to borrow. "The Clarks ATL is no idle loafer," it boasts. "Through seawater or stone, rock or road, the ATL is literally engineered from the ground up to provide the ultimate in comfort ... In short, the ATL is as far from a conventional sandal as chalk is from cheese."

Those considering jokes about downtrodden teachers might wish to consider more closely the finer points of the ATL: shock absorption equivalent to a running shoe and sculpted straps with micro-adjustable, quick-release Velcro fasteners. Still, it doesn't say you can't wear them with socks.

Union general secretary Peter Smith might not, however, wish to emulate the man who has given his backing to "ATL - The Go-Anywhere Sandal". Sir Ranulph Fiennes, the intrepid explorer whose Antarctic travels have left him somewhat digitally challenged in the lower environs.

Meanwhile, as if one coincidence were not enough, here is another. Around the corner from ATL HQ, a new shop has opened. It's called Peter Smith Records, but no-one has yet managed to catch the union namesake in there, let alone serving behind the counter.

The School Curriculum and Assessment Authority is acquiring a Pollyanna-like ability to spot the silver lining in every cloud. When a newspaper published - wrongly - some key stage 2 sums and was deluged with calls from puzzled readers, the harassed departmental secretary cut off a SCAA official within seconds, wailing: "We know. You're about the hundredth call this morning and I haven't even had the chance to go to the loo yet." Gloats a bigwig: "It just shows how interested people are in the tests."

Some confusion, apparently, at the Professional Association of Teachers. A press release breathlessly reveals that the "widespread use of hard drugs is not apparent in most schools", with heroin and cocaine use so low as to be statistically insignificant. "There was evidence, however, of the use of cannabis, glue, solvents, Ecstasy, Temazepam, LSD, aerosols and Tipp-Ex. " Perhaps someone should tell them that LSD, a Class A Schedule 1 controlled drug, is actually more illegal than cocaine and heroin.

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