That Panda isn't so cute and cuddly

25th January 2008 at 00:00
I have "EAD" (Educational Acronym Disorder). I'm OK with acronyms - after all, this is The TES, the first record I bought was YMCA and some of my best friends have ADHD.

My problem is that just when I think I've learnt an acronym, it changes. I no longer know whether I'm overseen by the DES, DfES or the new thing.

Just when I thought a Sip was a school improvement plan, which I used to call an SDP, it turns out Sips are now real people who drive long distances to improve things.

I remember the first time an adviser told me I'd need to get to grips with a Panda and a Picsi. All I could imagine was a cuddly thing that wouldn't breed in captivity and a little fella from Cornwall. Since then I've developed a kind of paranoia. I even see acronyms that aren't there. In a recent briefing, I found myself asking: "What's a T-E-A"?

It does help when people turn acronyms into little words. I'm OK with Inset being "In-set", and when the workforce agreement monitoring group became Wham Gee, I positively wanted to join up. I'll even cope should the DCSF become known as Dick-Scoff. But I can't be the only one who thought my RGI (registered inspector) was actually a man called Reggie.

What irks me is the way acronyms funnel language, labelling and taming activity. If we're all using monadically similar acronyms such as Sats, led by monadic structures such as Ofsted, we can acronym over the whole country. We'll all know what we mean when we don't mean much at all.

We have a language capable of rich expression, but these slick sobriquets are the linguistic equivalent of junk food. So I suggest we get creative.

Legend has it that in Dublin in 1791 James Daly, a flamboyant theatre manager, bet his friends that he could create a brand new word in 24 hours. That night he had four letters chalked up around the city. People awoke to find them, asking what this new word could be. It came to acquire the meaning of a puzzle or question. The four letters were Q, U, I and Z.

Let's start a trend. Wherever we can, let's slip in a new acronym, four letters long. People may turn the acronym into a word. They may even pretend to know what it means. I'll award five points for mentioning it in a meeting, 10 for putting a reference to it in the SEF or to the Sip.

Who knows? Perhaps C-R-A-P will catch on.

Huw Thomas is a Sheffield headteacher who will happily collect your absurd acronyms, email: hthomas@fish.co.uk.

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