About halfway between Hawaii and the Cook Islands, in the South Pacific is Jarvis Island. About three miles wide, it is uninhabited, covered in sand and sparse grasses and best known for its plentiful deposits of guano. We mention it because of the happy coincidence of name with Jarvis Plc, star of the Potter's Bar rail disaster inquiry and some spectacularly ill-fated school PFI contracts.
One of these contracts was at Varndean school, Brighton. Andy Schofield, its head, told the Diary: "It's been a disaster. The plague started when a local dentist said he had been confronted with a rat the size of a cat at the front door. Then there were complaints saying there had been rats staring down our drive at passers-by."
Mr Schofield blames the infestation on Jarvis, whose workers he claims broke manhole covers while building at the school in 2003 and unleashed the vermin.
He says the problem was first reported in January 2004 but it was not until March that the rats were poisoned. A few weeks later, the stench of rotting flesh began to emerge and despite numerous fumigations, Mr Schofield claims his school is still perfumed by a smell of "dog poo".
All of which has led an exasperated Schofield to respectfully suggest that Jarvis's next project might be to pack its bags for Jarvis Island and concentrate on the bird poo trade (www.jarvisisland.net). The firm, which has denied responsibility for the infestation, refused to comment.