23rd May 1997 at 01:00
Chris McGovern, right-wing pamphleteer and famously disgruntled history teacher, continues to make national news. Breaking off from his task of pulling down the temples of modern teaching, McGovern has scored a famous general election victory. He has won Hastings and Rye for Labour.

McGovern was first transformed from head of history to cause cel bre when, with a colleague at Lewes Priory School, he formed the "Lewes Two". Angered at the abolition of O-levels and the introduction of new, substandard GCSE history, McGovern and friends made a stand, offering after-school courses in the Scottish O grade. A much-publicised and protracted dispute was followed by enforced redundancy. Since then McGovern has been a leading figure on the educational fringe. He has filled columns in the Daily Mail and graced platforms including those of the Campaign for Real Education.

His struggle was eventually rewarded with a place on the history advisory group of the School Curriculum and Assessment Authority.

All this is as nothing in comparison with his latest triumph. Teaming up with fellow man of destiny, Jimmy Goldsmith, McGovern persuaded 2,511 townsfolk to vote for the Referendum Party on May 1. Labour's majority over poor old Jacqui Lait, the Conservative incumbent, was a mere 2,560.

Celebrations have broken out once more for author, pundit and scourge of educational trendies, Melanie Phillips. The paperback version of All Must Have Prizes has hit the streets. This, you will recall, is the "provocative" book that every parent must read: a polemical assault on the nest of wicked liberals at the heart of the education system.

Under attack from dreadful teachers and the like, she has been driven into the arms of ever more interesting friends. Last week's launch-plus-lecture in central London was hosted by the right-of-centre Politeia - the think-tank presided over by Sheila Lawlor, once of the Centre for Policy Studies.

And who should be there at the door, gladhanding guests as they arrive, but HM Chief Inspector, Christopher Woodhead. His admiration for Ms Phillips' work is well-known. But he was in furious trouble last time he stepped out with the folk at Politeia - and that was under a Conservative government.

Newspapers are on shaky ground when it comes to pointing out other people's mistakes. Even now, many of our readers may still be seething at some howler spotted in last week's issue.

But the Office for Standards in Education is too tempting a target. Carborundum feels compelled to share the delights contained in an eight-line letter from the inspection body to Hathershaw School in Oldham about the date on which it was to be inspected. The letter was sent out to correct an earlier mistake.

In eight lines OFSTED managed to spell apologies with two ps, miss an apostrophe, confuse "that" and "which", and fail to insert at least two necessary commas in a 46-word, four-line sentence.

A broader problem is the prose-style of OFSTED reports. One report Carborundum received referred to "off-task" behaviour.

The ghosts of leaders past linger at lecturers' union NATFHE. Last week the union's politburo ousted general secretary John Akker, claiming he was inefficient. This week he turns up in the union's newspaper The Lecturer. "I urge all NATFHE FE branches to seek urgent meetings with college managements to find out what will be happening in their institutions," says his signed editorial. Ironically NATFHE branches are only too keen to find out what has been happening in their own institution.

Tidings of a leetle cock-up reach our ears from the School Curriculum and Assessment Authority. An irate lady in Hanwell, Middlesex rang the authority to ask why her number had been given as that of the authority's publications department. Two digits had been transposed in a letter about test and task materials for 15,000 schools. Lots rang our lady in Hanwell for copies.

She, refusing to agree to change her number, has now left a message on her line saying it's nothing to do with her, advising callers to ring SCAA's publications manager, Roger Davies, and giving his number . The authority, meanwhile, has written a humble letter of apology to her and offered Mayfield primary school, where she sits on the PTA, any free SCAA material it might wish to have. And it has written again to 15,000 schools with the correct number.

Rumour reaches Carborundum that Chris Patten, formerly of Bath and Smith Square and currently of Hong Kong, may be the next vice-chancellor of Durham University. But, good heavens, Durham is almost as far from Westminster as Hong Kong, Surely Mr Patten doesn't need to go quite so far to escape from the Tory in-fighting? Lovely cathedral, though, and wonderful walking country.


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