9th February 1996 at 00:00
St Peter's School in Exeter has mixed views about Government publicity in general and league tables in particular. Its results are very good. The Department for Education and Employment's presentation is not: St Peter's was mistakenly given exam results belonging to St Peter's School in Plymouth. Not in itself a disaster, except that the Plymouth figures were not quite so hot. The local press had a field day.

This year the Exeter school is on the list of top-performing "Oscar" schools, published in the Office for Standards in Education's annual report, and merits a place in the press-release: which describes it as St Peter's School in Plymouth. St Peter's School in Plymouth no longer exists.

The noble art of prizefighting is not yet dead, and delegates at Labour's local government conference are hoping to see a fine demonstration in Birmingham. Mr Jack Dromey (Mr Harriet Harman), deputy leader of the Transport and General Workers is down to share a platform with education spokesman David Blunkett and deputy leader John Prescott, neither of them known grammar school enthusiasts. The meeting has been organised by the Centre for Local Economic Strategies, but the discussion may stray.

Schools, brace yourself: the far-right Institute of Economic Affairs has re-launched its education and training unit. This is the voucher-mad free-market outfit which (it says) brought you local management of schools and grant-maintained schools. That was in the golden days of the 1980s when Stuart Sexton ruled the Institute in between advising the late Sir Keith Joseph, Thatcher favourite and former education minister.

The IEA believes it is time to take up the cudgels once more and has placed a Dr James Tooley at the head of its re-vamped fighting unit. Sexton had of course notably failed to foist vouchers onto the world of normality. Dr Tooley, the university research fellow at the University of Manchester's School of Education, is in no way deterred.

He made a start this week with a talk to selected heads from the toffish Independent Schools Joint Council. Pupils, he ventured to suggest, should have what is technically known as "learning credits", doubtless a form of voucher. Which is to say they should be allowed to leave at 14 and take up the rest of their education when they choose. After they have lost their money playing Streetfighter II, perhaps. To his evident surprise the heads reacted with hostility.

It's nice to know that academic innocence has not entirely vanished. As the 104 university vice-chancellors bustled into their emergency meeting last Friday to consider a Pounds 300 levy on students, they noticed a bevy of people outside London's Senate House with copies of a publication called Militant. Intrigued, several vice-chancellors reached out to grab one. "It's not free," protested the protesters. "We have to charge, like you."

Education ministers have many colourful tasks in the parallel world that is the merged Department for Education and Employment. One of these is awarding of work permits to football stars and so forth: gun-slinging Columbian footballer Faustino Asprilla, for example.

The woman charged with assessing whether or not Mr Asprilla has skills no Briton can replicate (answer: yes) should he choose to play for Newcastle, is Cheryl Gillan, the golfing minister for women. This is in between important decisions on school meals and older workers.

Mrs Gillan's permit emporium received a recent setback when it was belatedly obliged to concede that a Moroccan fakir with Gerry Cottle's circus was uniquely qualified to push knives into unlikely parts of his anatomy.

Gillian Shephard's hatred of her own nursery voucher scheme is well known. Is this why the recent TES advert persuading nurseries to register with the DFEE included neither address nor phone number?

Those choosing to watch the The House, the BBC's fly-on-the-wall treatment of The Royal Opera House, may catch glimpses of a jovial-looking bloke among the prima donnas. This is Chris Lowe, the ample headmaster of the Prince William School in Oundle, Northamptonshire, and a member of its governing body.

The Opera House chose to "broaden its base" 18 months ago and Mr Lowe, who is not a lightweight in any sense, was the man for the job. Aside from attending all performances, his duties involve membership of the Opera Board - the committee which was filmed describing director Trevor Nunn as a "bastard". Mr Lowe was at the time attempting to slide under the table in embarrassment.

The warts-and-all approach of The House seems to have worried Virginia Bottomley, who will not appear on a forthcoming programme about the Victoria and Albert Museum. The Heritage Secretary imperiously barred the cameras from her recent visit there.

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