Pass the politician

14th January 2005 at 00:00
Peter Peacock is longevity personified, compared with the bewildering speed of arrivals and departures among his counterparts in London.

Now entering his third year in the job, our esteemed Education Minister finds himself dealing with his second English Education Secretary in that short time after Ruth Kelly replaced Charles Clarke who replaced David Blunkett (himself a former Education Secretary) - if you're still with us.

We learn that Kelly was denied a grand entrance on taking up her new post, since building work at the Department for Education and Skills meant she had to go through a makeshift side-door. One official was heard to quip that a larger revolving door would be needed to cope with the fast flow of ministers who have passed through the department.

As it happens, the Scottish Executive's Victoria Quay headquarters in Leith already has a revolving door. Thought everyone should know that.

Body swerve

Salutations to the fifth-year inmate who, asked in an end-of-year quiz "what film title combines the most important human emotion with the most important body organ" (answer Braveheart), replied: Free Willy.

Speak up Final confirmation has arrived that we do indeed have an ageing profession.

For we hear (as it were) that the Educational Institute of Scotland has installed new microphones in its main chamber at Moray Place HQ in Edinburgh, all the better for members to hear themselves with.

There may be other reasons of course. The union has recently drawn attention to voice strain, and even loss, among teachers (TESS, last week).

Ronnie Smith, its general secretary, warned gravely that teachers should report symptoms immediately - "or they run the risk of suffering in silence".

This is something which, sadly, Smith may now have to do himself, as his members take maximum advantage of their new vocal aid.

chinese whispers

The disclosure that the Scottish Qualifications Authority has had to suspend its dealings with Dalian University in China, pending an investigation into allegations of exam cheating, was provoked by a mysterious letter, Jotter can reveal.

The university is supposed to be one of the centres in China offering students the SQA's Higher National qualifications.

But, according to Raymond Lamont, chief executive officer of Sea Rich College in China, which subcontracts to Dalian, the university is guilty of "gross mismanagement, outright fraud, systematic cheating in student assessments, hooliganism and other criminal acts to deter others from disclosing the real facts".

Strong words indeed. All that is missing from this verbal onslaught resonating of old China are references to imperialist lackeys and capitalist running dogs.

Still, there are no entries for SQA courses yet at Dalian. What, no entryism in Communist China? It's a scandal.

Not beyond our Ken

We are glad to note that our old comrade Ken MacDonald, BBC Scotland's former education correspondent who is now "roving" as they say in the trade, has not lost his deft linguistic touch - for either modern or dead languages.

One of MacDonald's reports on Newsnight Scotland last week referred to the "casus belli" for going to war with Iraq (weapons of mass destruction) as a "mirage". A loss to language teaching, without a doubt.

truant Trouncing

You wonder why some people bother. Conservative MSP Murdo Fraser put down a recent parliamentary written question asking whether Peter Peacock is satisfied with truancy levels in schools.

Astonishingly, the Education Minister replied: "No, any truancy is to be deplored."

Urine luck

Toilets - research and common sense tell us - have a key role to play in determining whether children have a satisfactory - or indeed comfortable - school experience.

News has now emerged of a revolutionary Dutch device which could change the, er, face of education as we know it. Guido van der Zwet of explains: "(Our product) has to be put in boys' toilets and reduces peeing next to the toilet.

"In the Netherlands, peeing next to the toilet is a big problem at primary schools and our product is now sold to about half of all Dutch primary schools."

Apparently, the device consists of a simple heat-sensitive sticker placed on the floor that reveals a funny pattern when it comes into contact with urine.

Let us hope this does not lead to too many redundancies among school cleaners.

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