22nd March 1996 at 00:00
Strathclyde, Britain's most enormous education authority, is set for the chop next month when the new system of unitary councils arrives north of the Border. We are pleased to say that amid the general wailing, chief education officer Frank Pignatelli has been able to take a realistic view of events, the need to embrace change, etc.

Mr Pignatelli is to become the group director of personnel at Associated Newspapers in London - yes, the publishers of the Daily Mail and London's Evening Standard. Such papers are not, as he admits, best known for their love of Scotland, local authorities generally or the Left-leaning Strathclyde which Prime Minister John Major once termed "a monstrosity".

Sir David English, new chairman and editor-in-chief at Associated Newspapers, said of the appointment "we are delighted to get our hands on him. He will bring a lot to the party here." Whichever party that is.

Still, needs must when the devil drives and, after 26 years of public service, Mr Pignatelli no doubt deserves his place on the board. Sir David has already changed the job title from the politically correct "director of human resources" to the equally meaningless "director of manpower services". Not a post found in Strathclyde at present. Perhaps what Mr Pignatelli describes as a "much more attractive" salary than his present Pounds 94,500 will help to ease the pain of the indignity.

A new turf war is set to break out in the murky world of quango-fication. It is rumoured that the City Technology College Trust wants to change its name to something less identifiable with the failed CTC movement; the Technology Education Trust, for example. It would thereby sweep in the 140 schools which have taken the extra dosh to become technology or language "colleges". Nearly 90 of which are grant-maintained.

This will not be to the liking of the GM movement or its chief apologist and Tory grandee, Sir Bob Balchin.

Meanwhile, a terrible error has occurred. In recounting the tragic tale of his thwarted mayoral ambitions, we mistakenly referred to Mr Andrew Turner as director of the GM Schools Centre. This is a calumny, as Mr Turner is director of the GM Schools Foundation.

Both camps have protested. The two are much confused in the public mind but the difference is clear: the centre sells services to GM schools and the foundation, which receives Government money, promotes opting out. A difficult task at present.

The two bodies have scarcely a good word for one another and are united only in their distrust of the smoothly affable, and so far peerage-less, Balchin. He is chair of both groups, and partly responsible for their entangled identities.

The corruption of power spreads further than you might think, as Alan Wells, director of the Basic Skills Agency, explained last week.

A very distinguished audience including the Princess Royal and several top librarians was astonished to hear Mr Wells confess all at London's Hotel Russell.

His CV, it seems, had once placed him at the London School of Economics yet omitted to mention that he held the post of library assistant. "It was the most powerful job I've ever had," he recalled. At the time books were kept in a large basement and access was denied to all but the most favoured of students. "Favoured by me, that is. I was able to say that a certain book had disappeared, been destroyed, eaten by mice." Or even borrowed.

HM chief inspector, Chris Woodhead, is on frosty terms with the Education and Employment Secretary, Gillian Shephard. But who needs her? Mr Woodhead is friendly with both the Prime Minister and, it now emerges, Prince Charles.

We are uplifted by the news that HRH refers to Mr Woodhead as a "marvellous" man.

Whatever education group there is at Highgrove, the Caroline residence, Mr Woodhead is on it. Senior observers reacted with near despair recently as, at Royal invitation, Woodhead and Observer columnist Melanie Phillips got to work in an energetic session of teacher-trashing. Prince Charles was apparently enthralled.

Neither Mr Woodhead nor the Department for Education and Employment have had much luck in the search for experts to oversee the whizzo literacy and numeracy centres. Ten of each will be scattered around the country to promote something called "good practice". Strictly speaking, this is the DFEE's job, but Mr Woodhead has the keenest of interests: as a spokesman from the Office for Standards in Education put it, "we're setting the agenda for what constitutes good teaching in English and maths".

He hopes. There has been a remarkable lack of interest in the post of literacy chief to date, so much so that the post will be re-advertised at a higher salary.

The punters have shown no such reticence when it comes to higher education. The department's phone system is near breaking point as thrusting members of various constituencies volunteer to serve on Sir Ron Dearing's review team. "Whereupon I cross them off the list," explained a mandarin.

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