5th January 1996 at 00:00
Prince William School in Oundle has been denied its finest hour. Oundle, a tiny town in Northamptonshire was flooded with battalions of British Gas vans just two days before New Year when its ageing pipework fell apart. In an effort to counter the freezing weather, British Gas had upped the town supply - a move which promptly ruptured the system.

As loudspeakers banned the citizens from so much as looking at their "gas appliances", and burly men turned off everything to hand, the oil-heated Prince William School was requisitioned to shelter the townsfolk from the Siberia without. Scores of mattresses were laid down in the school hall and reception. The caretaker stood ready for the huddled masses. Which, we are sorry to say, numbered only one. The people of Oundle, it seems, were connected to electricity.

The TV curse has struck again. First there was Culloden, the primary school in the London borough of Tower Hamlets that unwisely agreed to take part in a fly-on-the wall documentary. Culloden's relaxed approach and its sweater wearing headteacher came in for national vilification, whereupon the then education secretary Kenneth Clarke unleashed HM Inspectorate. A highly critical report followed.

Now, after years of running a controversial no-exclusions policy at the failing Earl Marshal School in Sheffield, headteacher Chris Searle has himself been excluded: barred from his post by Sheffield's education authority.

Earl Marshal had made a less than flattering appearance in a programme by those intrepid Panorama people about the rising tide of expulsions nationally. A few anonymous members of his staff, their faces blacked out for the cameras, came on air to claim that the no-exclusions policy was an irresponsibly dangerous thing.

Invite the cameras in at your peril.

There is slender but significant progress in the male citadel that is the Department for Education and Employment. Following the startling revelation that by the end of this month there will be only one woman among the 16 divisional heads responsible for schools administration, the mandarins have made their move. The dismal total now has now been upped to two, Sheila Scales and Anne Jackson.

A rather thin New Year letters column in the Daily Telegraph throws up the following paean of praise: "Despite his detractors, John Major has won the respect of the world in his straightforward determination to put our nation first. We businessmen who, with others, are leading the drive to keep Britain the enterprise centre of Europe agree with the policies of John Major."

Appropriately enough for the time of year, the said businessmen sport a handsome collection of gongs. Sir Christopher Benson, Lord Shepphard of Didgemere and the newly elevated Sir Stanley Kalms - giving his knighthood an early outing - also hold positions of trust in the world of education.

Sir Stanley, a member of the Funding Agency for Schools is the founder and chairman of Dixon's which responded in the Government's hour of need by paying for the Bradford City Technology College. Dixon's has made regular contributions to the Conservative party.

Sir Christopher Benson, the chairman of Boots, receives in excess of Pounds 33,000 for two days work a week as chairman of the Funding Agency for Schools. He was formerly chairman of the Sun Alliance insurance group which in 1993 gave Pounds 50,000 to the Conservative party.

Lord Shepphard is the chairman of Grand Metropolitan Plc, owners of Burger King which last year caused a furore by ordering some employees to "clock off" whenever business was slack. In one notable case this resulted in a rate of pay approximating to Pounds 1 an hour. Grand Metropolitan's charitable arm, the Grand Metropolitan Trust has moved into the careers business and recently won the contract to guide young people in a sizeable chunk of south-east London.

Education and Employment Secretary Gillian Shephard has been invited to address the National Union of Teachers at its annual Easter conference in Cardiff. After last year when some members jostled Labour spokesman David Blunkett who is a) blind and b) supposedly on their side, Mrs Shephard must wonder quite what horrors lie in wait.

Why has David Hart, general secretary of the National Association of Head Teachers, recommended that teaching staff get only a 4 per cent pay rise?

His fellow union bosses think this rather miserly, not least because the Department of Education and Employment is claiming to have a budget 4.5 per cent greater than last year's and have roundly criticised him in the national press.

Could it be that the missing half per cent would give his headteacher members a bit of extra cash to slosh around their budgets?

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