26th April 1996 at 01:00
Arrangements are festering nicely for the shotgun wedding of the year, the union of the two bodies responsible for the nation's colleges.

Or some of them, since the Scots and the Welsh have already turned down their invitations to the nuptials on the grounds that they already have perfectly good organisations of their own, thank you very much, and anyway the Association of British Colleges makes a silly acronym.

For those unfamiliar with the labyrinthine politics of further education institutions, a quick update: in one corner the Association for Colleges, headed by Ruth Gee and formed to represent the interests of members.

In the other corner the Colleges' Employers' Forum, set up by the wily Roger Ward out of the old Polytechnics and Colleges Employers' Forum specifically to help members get lecturers signed up to the new, improved, Government-improved contracts.

Sniping began, perhaps unsurprisingly, with accusations that the two organisations were trampling on each other's territory, with the CEF attracting most blame. Colleges moaned about having to choose their organisation or pay two sets of subscriptions, which could be up to Pounds 10,000. And so a marriage was arranged, and a date set for this November.

As in all the best weddings, the plans have been beset by rows. There was the little matter of the reluctance of Scottish and Welsh guests to chip in to the kitty. Even English guests have warned that they will turn down their invitation if costs are too high.

But most of all there are the rows about which partner will have to compromise most. Will the CEF's combative style prove more attractive than the AFC's more conciliatory methods?

And - underlying most of the tensions - should R Ward or R Gee be the one to pick up the redundancy envelope?

And that is where Carborundum comes in. The two organisations have practised a little role-reversal of late, and that while employees of the "nice" AFC are on short-time contracts, longer-term or even permanent versions have been on offer at the "nasty" CEF.

No prizes for guessing which are going to be the more attractive for the ABC to hire and fire, and why there are now mutterings of takeover rather than merger.

Moreover, the disparity extends to the top. It seems Ms Gee is only on six months' notice, while her extensively-tailored counterpart would get a year's salary on redundancy, thus making losing him a pricey option.

Whispers Carborundum's mole: "Isn't that rather loading the dice over the top job to begin with?" Contracting-out of services has had many winners and losers, but the most unusual must be an exceptionally contented sty-full of porkers down in sunny East Sussex.

According to the local paper, school meals have been going down a treat - with pigs, not pupils - since private contractors took over the service in January. Fred Rumsey, a farmer who feeds waste from schools to his 1,200 animals, says the amount he collects has doubled.

"There has been a huge increase in waste from local schools," opines Farmer Rumsey. "But our pigs love it even if the kids don't."

His son pipes up: "We used to clear up to 50 kilos of waste a week, but now it's almost 100 kilos. I talk to the cooks who say the kids don't want it. They reckon the quality of the food has gone down."

Valiantly, the county's catering officer Leatham Green defends the new canteen grub. "In recent weeks, we've had very favourable comments from schools. We haven't picked up any problems with a huge amount of waste."

Carborundum would like to say it's an ill wind as does nobody any good. But in deference to those who live downwind of the Rumsey farm at Bexhill, we've decided not to.

As if Sir Claus Moser's attack on Government education policies last week was not entertaining enough, the thud of jaws hitting the ground during an aside of his London speech was almost audible.

The founder of the National Commission on Education explained that when he was a boy in Germany between the wars his father had asked him about his aspirations.

The fallback position was apparently for young Claus to enter the family bank, but Moser senior had higher aspirations, telling his son: "If you are very, very bright you might yet go into school teaching." He added wistfully: "I long for the day when that is true here."

Looking for something to occupy the summer, Carborundum is considering applying for one of the European Socrates programmes being handled by the Central Bureau for Educational Visits and Exchanges.

Unfortunately the application form is written in that universal European language, fluent gobbledegook, and is headed, grandly: "UK Application Form for Individual Mobility Activities under Horizontal Measures (information exchange) ARION programme." An upstart retainer suggests mobility measures for horizontal activities might make more sense.

A cutting reaches Chateau Carborundum from a local paper in which a letter writer complains of an editorial criticising the "barracking" of shadow education spokesman David Blunkett at the National Union of Teachers' conference last year.

"This is namby-pambyism gone mad," steams the author. "Barracking is people expressing their feelings, that is what you do at conferences." And the dictionary definition of conference isI oh, forget it.

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