20th February 2009 at 00:00

Having a ball

A reminder arrived at FErret Towers that last week saw the 20th anniversary of the most overused metaphor for FE - the "Cinderella service".

Kenneth Baker, then education secretary, used the phrase in a speech to the Association of Colleges of Further and Higher Education - presumably casting himself in the ill-fitting tutu of fairy godmother. Colleges enthusiastically took up the notion - although they have been reluctant to brand their school and university counterparts the ugly sisters, as logic dictates.

But our team of researchers at the FErret Department of Historical Revision can reveal that Lord Baker was not, in fact, the first to use the phrase. As far as we can determine, that honour goes to an anonymous Economist hack writing on - oh, how times change - an overhaul of the "machinery of Government" in 1984.

Now, with colleges starting to brim with confidence, having attended the ball and got totally smashed, perhaps it's time for a new metaphor. FErret will be experimenting with "Goldilocks sector" - this budget's too small, this one's too big! - but other suggestions would be welcome.

That's snow excuse

It seems, however, some colleges are making a bid for the "Scrooge sector" to be the new nickname. A handful, from Leeds to Somerset, have told staff they face losing a day's holiday if they didn't make it in through the snow.

The University and College Union says lecturers were only following police advice not to travel. And, if they had made it in, many would have found all their students had stayed home anyway.

Principals, on the other hand, are understandably irked about paying staff to build snowmen. Perhaps they also read about Phil Venables, of Coleg Llysfasi in Ruthin Wales, who made the 138-mile round trip to work despite the heaviest snow for nearly 20 years. Such heroics can only meet with one response: knock it off, you're making us look bad.

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