19th January 1996 at 00:00
Who is this ministering to the bedraggled crew obstructing the forces of law and order at the site of the proposed Newbury by-pass?

Why, George Varnava, president of the National Association of Head Teachers, who has recently purchased a country residence in the area.

Operating strictly at ground level, he has been fending off the road lobby with nothing more radical than proprietary brands of soup.

It must be some relief to the Fabian Society that its one-time research director, Mr Stephen Pollard, has now formally switched sides.

You may remember Mr Pollard embarrassing the band of moderate socialists with an unbrotherly demand for academic selection at 11, vouchers for school places, and the abolition of local education authorities - Majorite policies somewhat to the right of Education Secretary Gillian Shephard.

Mr Pollard is now styling himself "researcher-designate" at the Social Market Foundation, the Prime Minister's favourite think-tank.

He may well be hoping to emulate Danny Finkelstein, who moved from the SMF to be head of research at Conservative Central Office.

"But by the time Mr Pollard gets there the post will have no involvement with government," notes a sourpuss in the Labour Party.

More of John Patten's remaindered tome, Things to Come - the Tories in the Twenty-First Century. Last week it was spotted on sale at Pounds 2 in the Bloomsbury branch of Dillons ("we've sold one copy, sir").

Our East Anglian spies now report an ignominious Pounds 1 sighting in Galloway and Porter, Cambridge.

All further news of Mr Patten's discounted outpourings gratefully received.

Grand Metropolitan's record of excellent employment practices lengthens apace. This is the firm that ordered employees at its Burger King chain to "clock off" during quiet periods.

Which in turn left some hapless staff earning rather less than the market rate: Pounds 1 an hour in one notable instance.

The latest casualty is Carolyn Heathcote, head of careers education and guidance at Southwark, who was due to start a new job as chief executive of the GrandMet Trust's Careers Service last Monday.

With just one working day to go the trust - a charitable arm of Grand Metropolitan - rang to tell her that her that the job was cancelled. It was pulling out of careers.

"The carpet has been pulled from under our feet," she explained with commendable moderation. "All the candidates for this post went through a very stressful interview process for nothing."

Britain's contribution to the European Year of Lifelong Learning will be launched in less than convincing style next month. The Department for Education and Employment has yet to name its minister while not one senior representative of local government in Britain - the largest provider of adult education - has received an invitation.

Graham Lane, chair of the Association of Metropolitan Authority's education committee has been asked along. Sort of. But only on condition that he stump up a Pounds 35 fee.

This for the privilege of travelling all the way to Scotland and joining the stage army in the conference hall. Which we gather, he is unlikely to do.

To Westminster and the Queen Elizabeth II Centre where the very greatest and the goodest are engrossed in questions of moral and spiritual education.

Tessa Keswick, former adviser to Kenneth Clarke and the new director at the Centre for Policy Studies makes a forthright contribution to our search for the good life: schools should tell "young women and their often feckless men" to rear their children in wedlock.

Michael Worsley, head of Broadway School in inner-city Birmingham has different ideas. Next week he will enter the spirit of Ramadan with his Muslim pupils, and forsake all food and drink during daylight hours. Their standard of behaviour, he confirms, is notably higher at this time.

(See TES2, page 2) Lady Olga Maitland was well up with the cut and thrust of debate at the Parliamentary Select Committee on Education.

"Should the careers service be split off from local authorities?" she asked of Tony Watts, the witness from the National Institute for Careers Education and Guidance.

"It, erm, already is," came the baffled reply.

So, inspectors should name the duffers in the teaching force, says the Office for Standards in Education.

This suggestion has already drawn howls of outrage from, among others, headteachers. They complain that it will divide their staff and prejudice any formal disciplinary measures.

Who is behind these preposterous proposals? Nigel de Gruchy, general secretary of the NASUWT, thinks he knows: "I was reliably informed that headteachers in the primary sector lobbied for it," he says, puzzlingly. An NAHT source agrees. It seems the heads are reluctant to point the finger of blame unaided.

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