Hats off to Radio Lancashire. The Teacher Training Agency has just finished an arduous tour of 17 local radio stations, putting the case for, among other things, the Teacher Training Agency. What the exercise revealed, according to one TTA insider, was a staggering ignorance of all matters educational on the part of local radio presenters.
Only one, Mr Andy Peebles from Lancashire, was sufficiently awake to ask chief executive Anthea Millett whether or not teachers' pay rates and this week's award could have a bearing on the tricky issue of recruitment.
As you pick over the meagre contents of your pay packets, we thought you might bear in mind the following worthy causes, all relatively new in their posts.
Heather Du Quesnay has landed the job of chief education officer in Lambeth, advertised at "circa Pounds 74,000".
Dr Nick Tate, culture warrior and chief executive of the School Curriculum and Assessment Authority has to get by on something between Pounds 55,000 and Pounds 82,500. His predecessor Chris Woodhead, now the chief inspector, is richer still and earns between Pounds 67,500 and Pounds 98,000 while Michael Bichard, permanent secretary at the Department for Education and Employment, rakes in from Pounds 95,000 to Pounds 100,000. ("Definitely below Pounds 100,000," said the DFEE.) Sir Bill Stubbs, head of the Further Education Funding Council, is soon to be rector of the London Institute (a gathering of art colleges, not to be confused with London University's Institute of Education). In 19945 the post paid Pounds 128,666.
Tory MPs Toby Jessel and Jeremy Hanley ran into a deal of Parliamentary trouble when they used official House of Commons notepaper, and the official free mail service, to write to all the schools in Richmond on Thames. Their message? Why, how generously this Government has treated the education service.
However, it seems that discipline is lax at Westminster. A man styling himself "the Serjeant at Arms" has written to Liberal-controlled Richmond Council to say that he has dealt with Mr Jessel and Mr Hanley. And that nothing is going to happen. "I can confirm that no costs will be incurred on public funds by the correspondence which both members have generated about the finance from the Government for schools in Richmond," says the hard-hitting Serjeant. "The matter is now closed as far as the House authorities are concerned."
What can he mean? Possibly that Messrs Jessel and Hanley have repaid the postage for what amounts to a Tory party advert.
It certainly appears to mean that the MPs have not received, and are not going to receive, an official reprimand; and that their fellow MPs will not be warned off doing anything similar at the public expense.
The leader of Richmond Council had hoped for a little more clarity.
This letter-sending business seems to have been part of a campaign. The Rt Hon William Waldegrave, chief secretary to the Treasury, has written to those he hopes will be his future constituents in the putative education authority of Bristol.
Like Mr Jessel and Mr Hanley, Mr Waldegrave is keen that his potential voters know just what a good deal education has got in the latest public expenditure round. So keen in fact that in order to illustrate the point he seems to have made a few figures up.
"Bristol unitary authority's education standard spending assessment will be almost Pounds 120 million in 1996-7, up nearly Pounds 4m or 3.3 per cent on the comparable figure for 1995-6," explained the financial wizard. In fact there are no figures for 1995-96 as there is, as yet, no unitary authority.
Pressed on this point by Local Schools Information, Mr Waldegrave replied that "the figures which have been used reflect a commonsense assessment of what the education SSA would have been if reorganisation had taken place this year".
Is the chief secretary risking a charge of misleading his constituents as well as one of misleading the House?
Beer and sandwiches are no longer on the menu. It's coffee and cake now, for employment journalists if not union leaders themselves. They discovered this, rather to their surprise, when invited to a meeting by Eric Forth. The Minister of State for Education and Employment's sense of priority obliged him to cancel an education briefing especially to be there.
The hacks were bemused at the quantity of sticky stuff on offer which could, they testified, have funded an extra percentage point on the teachers' pay award. They were also baffled by the peculiarly low quality of Mr Forth's performance. Admitting from the outset that he knew little about the jobs' scene, he then presented a series of flimsy graphs and dubious statistics.
The nadir was reached when the plain-dealing Glaswegian pulled out "figures" showing the increase in job opportunities throughout the economy. Figures which did not include male workers. At this point the hacks, shunning all patisserie, made for the door.