The line-up for Christmas number one;Diary

24th December 1999 at 00:00
WHAT A YEAR! The excitement, the drama, the anticipation! But enough about EastEnders. What about the crazy world of education?

A Scrooge-like mood meant the Diary failed to hold an annual awards ceremony last year, but we couldn't let the century pass unmarked, so without further ado, Gloria! The envelopes!

First up, the Platinum Handcuffs award for escape artist of the year. Anthea Millett came close, slipping the shackles of the TTA for a cruise liner bound for Antarctica. But hats off to Nick Tate at the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority, who looks a new man after shaving off his beard and landing the top job at Winchester College.

On to the Marley's Ghost Spirit of Christmas award for services to charity. A late challenge comes from Carmarthenshire County Council for choosing this of all weeks to close down tiny Bethlehem village primary school. John McIntosh at the London Oratory showed sustained form, most memorably asking the Blairs to cough up pound;540 towards the school's debts.

But the winner has to be Hammersmith and Fulham Council for bailing the Oratory out with a pound;250,000 loan despite Mr M's well-publicised views on local authorities.

We whizz through the Titanic Award for going down in style (winner: J Aitken for predicting prison would be just like Eton) and the Memorial John Patten Silver Tongue for diplomacy (congratulations Michael Barber for reassuring a worried Nick Tate that the QCA is too unimportant to close down) and on to a new award.

The Golden Share marks the new spirit of enterprise in education. The Department for Education and Employment almost scooped it for flogging off large parts of Hackney and others. Islington Council gained an edge by flogging off large parts of itself.

But the inaugural prize goes to a school which shows you can be small but still think big. Step forward Islington Green, which charged a magazine pound;100 for snaps of its dinner ladies for a feature on public sector pay rises. That's the spirit!

Finally, the prestigious Hero of the Hour millennial award for triumph in the face of adversity.

For sheer stoicism, we were tempted by the front desk staff at Sanctuary Buildings - shivering this week in temperatures of 8C. But the prize could go to only one person.

Then our attention was diverted by Estelle Morris. You'll recall her exploits in a DFEE lift; now we learn she has received an unwanted Christmas surprise, finding her new flat flooded. Worse, on reaching for the drinks cabinet she found one of her 12 bottles of fizzy red wine (don't ask) had exploded. She's now looking for help to drink the rest before they suffer the same fate.

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