15th February 2013 at 00:00

Where is the love?

No union protest is complete without a gimmick - usually a large papier mache puppet of the object of ire - and yesterday's strike at Halesowen College in the West Midlands was no exception.

Protesters planned to deliver a 12,000-name petition to reinstate David Muritu, sacked maths lecturer and branch secretary of the University and College Union, in the form of a giant Valentine's Day card. Because nothing says "I love you" like an industrial dispute over whether someone was fairly given the boot.

We shall have to wait and see whether principal Keith Bate was moved, or whether he expected flowers, chocolates and a nice meal out instead.

But the omens are not good. You know who else tried to change the mind of someone in power? The original St Valentine, who according to one story was tolerated by Roman authorities while he illegally conducted Christian marriages, until he tried to convert the emperor. He was beaten with clubs and stones, then beheaded.

Like the course of true love, this one could go either way.

There really is no such thing as a free lunch

More news from the Department of Giving with One Hand and Taking with the Other: pupils in colleges will be eligible for free meals. But wait!

It doesn't apply if they are over 16. That long-standing injustice remains. But FErret had expected that pupils aged 14 and 15, who can be recruited under the new rules from September, would also be out of luck. Incorrect: they will be eligible for free meals in college. And colleges will be identifying eligible students anyway in order to be able to claim their #163;900 pupil premium.

But here's the catch: there's no separate funding. Instead, colleges have to pay for meals out of the pupil premium, which is supposed to be for education rather than lunch.

There is a story about a thrifty former football chairman who once ostentatiously ordered champagne for the players to celebrate a victory, then disappeared and left them the bill. Perhaps someone at the Department for Education is a fan.

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