2nd August 1996 at 01:00
Fixed grins all round in the garden of 10 Downing Street last week when prime minister John Major launched his second sports report. Beaming manically at the massed ranks of moppets wheeled on to demonstrate mini-games around the rose bushes, he waxed lyrical. This was, he said, the happiest event of the many he had staged in the rose garden.

But keen observers wondered if everything in the garden was, in fact, lovely. Why was the successor to Sport: Raising The Game accompanied by a six-page Prime Minister's Summary and at least a week adrift of the original document's first anniversary?

It seems that the sport-mad premier was less than happy with the original draft drawn up by the heritage department, aided and abetted by the Department for Education and Employment. In fact, Mr M - the man whose idea of sporting rabble-rousing was to wish the England football team "a satisfactory result" in the Euro 96 competition - was considerably displeased enough to dispatch the document to his policy unit for general sharpening, with especial attention being reserved for the summary.

The blessed Virginia Bottomley being otherwise occupied in the traffic jams of Atlanta, it fell to her sports minister Iain Sproat to beam alongside the PM throughout his address to the sports-star-studded audience, including three England Test cricketers. (Why, Carborundum's mole wondered, were they not at net practice for the next day's start of the first Test against Pakistan?) Lurking around in less pride of place were junior education ministers Cheryl Gillan and Lord Henley.

And here comes the really curious bit. Although much of Mr M's speech was devoted to sport in schools, he ended by thanking the absent Bottomley and the present Sproat for their efforts, and signally failed to mention anyone from the DFEE, let alone the Secretary of State. What can this all mean?

Red faces at the School Curriculum and Assessment Authority, where the examiners' equivalent of the schoolchild howler has just been rescued from the presses.

Pupils taking next year's key stage 3 history paper were to have been regaled with an ambassadorial quotation about the diplomatic skills of Louis XIV, which said that trying to pin down the monarch was "like trying to grasp firmly a pair of well-oiled ivory balls".

A straight-faced SCAA source explains, primly: "We felt this might be more prone to worldly interpretation than our poor, innocent professional officers here might have realised."

A fascinating document slides off the fax at Chateau Carborundum. Surely some mistake . . . it is a briefing for education junior minister Robin Squire on the line he should take for his interview with the BBC on supply teachers earlier this month, with defensive ansers to sample questions.

You may recall that the DFEE has promised some legislation to ensure that supply teachers are subject to the same checks as others, whilst reviewing qualified teacher status to see how some overseas-trained staff can become eligible.

And here it is: the official line in how not to answer questions. Suggested question: "Some teachers are not subject to statutory requirements on barring, health and qualifications." Suggested answer: "True, that some may be outside the scope of these statutory controls. But that does not mean they are not being checked. As a matter of good practice, these checks are generally being conducted. And we will legislate to make them compulsory."

Another possible googly from the (no doubt pinko) BBC interviewer: "Why won't you set up a register of agencies, when even the agencies themselves would like you to do so?" Answer: "We do not believe this would be helpful. Only last year, we abolished the licensing requirements on all employment agencies, as experience showed they gave little extra protection to agency users."

Back to the mythical interviewer: "Teaching unions have complained that their members are underpaid by agencies." Cue Mr Squire: "We do not believe Government should tell private agencies what to pay their staff. I believe most agencies pay all their teachers a flat rate, which will benefit some, though some others may be paid less than they would be by a school or local authority under the national pay agreement." Why bother sending a minister along at all? Or even an interviewer, when things work so satisfactorily without either?

Sadly, we have to relate a secondhand account of what was obviously the social event of the year - the 60th anniversary dinner of the Headteachers' Association of Scotland. The following account, written by Charlie Smith, the rector of Airdrie Academy, appeared in the HAS magazine Scottish Headlines.

"Conversation at dinner has never been a problem among the teaching fraternity - or sorority for that matter - and, over a good meal and a glass (or two) of wine, anecdote and reminiscence were obviously and enjoyably the order of the day. Ronnie Paul, setting an example to us all, went from table to table, generously dispensing the wind his table companions felt unable to imbibe. " How very kind of him.

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