Free flannel with tender-soft soap

12th May 1995 at 01:00
The first wave of bilge from the Teacher Training Agency has been washing around the newspapers. The TTA is the newest educational quango. It was set up, for no reason whatsoever, mainly to do what the Higher Education Funding Council already did, that is to dole out teacher-training places, something it has not been handling especially well.

The TTA (motto: "multus clueless") has been placing block adverts in the national press, under the heading "Promotional Communication Services - Schoolteaching as a Profession - Invitation to Tender" . What on earth are "Promotional Communication Services?", I hear you ask. Ah yes, of course. Promotional Communication Services are exactly the same as Fractilinear Flubbalubba Flangiforms. It's pretty obvious when you think about it.

Anyway, the Fractilinear Flubbalubba Flangiform division of the Teacher Trainspotting Aspidistra seeks the following, according to the adverts: "The Teacher Training Agency invites tenders from suitably qualified companies or individuals to provide a comprehensive (oops, don't let ministers see that word!) programme of promotional and marketing services to promote teaching as a profession. The programme will involve the provision of literature and advice, advertising and regional support services."

Aren't you sorely tempted to put in a tender? Would it not be glorious to be able to counteract the usual public relations tosh that will be put out by commercial outfits? We at Flubbalubba PR, if our tender of Pounds 25 (including free flannel) is successful, will be offering a comprehensive, nay, a grammar school programme, of promotional and marketing services for the teaching profession that will tell it like it really is.

First, under that part of the tender requiring "literature and advice", Flubbalubba PR will be offering ample amounts of both. Our "literature" will consist of that premier collection, "Ministers' Greatest Hits". This exciting pack will contain such mega hits as a re-issue, using the original tracks, of "The Government's Anthologee of Really Terrific English Literature for 14-year-olds", which topped the charts a year or two back.

Best piece of "literature" of all will be that old 1991 favourite from the School Examinations and Assessment Council, "SEAC on the SATs", with its world-class lyrics, such as "For each attainment target, profile component and subject, check that the totals for D, N, W, 1, 2 and 3 add up to the total number of girls in Year 2. For Ma 6 the totals for D, N, 1, 2 and 3 should add up to the total number of girls in Year 2. repeat the process for boys". Ah, they don't write lyrics like that any more. I'm still humming them.

Second, our "advice" clinic is in the hands of a very experienced teacher, Mr Oldlagg. When potential recruits ring up, Mr Oldlagg will offer a snippet from his wide range of scintillating responses, such as: "When you've been in teaching as long as me son . . .", "Nah, there's no call for that sort of thing nowadays", and "Inner-city schools? If you take my advice, love, you'll apply for a job as a swimming attendant in a pool full of piranha fish. It's safer."

I am proud to unveil our national television advertising campaign. I'll admit that a little of its inspiration does derive from the current "Papa and Nicole" TV car ad, but it will, I am sure, be just what the TTA is not looking for. "Nicole" is a primary teacher. You can tell that because the back shelf of her V-registered car is full of books she has taken home to mark. The rear seat is piled high with egg boxes she has scrounged from the local supermarket, so that her class can glue on six milk bottle tops, 10 cornflakes and a piece of string and label them "Star Ship Enterprise" (trendy technology project).

The back of her car is crushed flat from the many semi-literate motorists who have driven too close trying to read the rear window sticker that says "If you can read this, thank a teacher - National Union of Teachers, Blackpool, 1981." As the cheery car-ad music tinkles away - dooby dooby doobedy doo, doobedy doo, doobedy doo - her engine coughs its way along, not through the French countryside, but down an inner city street, where it gives up the ghost and breaks down completely. While she explains to "Papa" (the retired "hit squad" head running the school since the Office for Standards in Education graded it "unsatisfactory" and the real head had a nervous breakdown) why she is late for school, some spotty youths nick her hubcaps.

Our second TV advert does owe a smidgen to the National Lottery advertising campaign, which used various numbers in the landscape to persuade us that anybody could buy a ticket. First it shows a would-be teacher standing next to an aquarium. All the goldfish line up in a straight vertical line and a resonant voice says "One. That's the percentage of your pay rise the Government will be willing to fund". Next a dog barks. That would-be teacher turns to it and says "Is that 'seven' or 'eleven'?", to which the dog replies, "Either, mate. If you teach in a secondary school, that's the number of teachers likely to be made redundant. So after a year or two, it's 'woof woof' to you pal".

That would-be teacher emerges from a tobacconist's shop clutching a bag of Maltesers (or "the less fattening centres", as schools are called nowadays), and then he leaps high in the air. A giant hand appears out of the sky, points in the distance to a gloomy 19th-century building with bars on the windows, labelled "The Kenneth Baker Rest Home for Distressed Teachers", while a deep voice intones, "It could be you". The giant hand then waves two fingers at him and he skulks off to the Job Centre.

Somehow I don't think we'll win the contract.

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