Sacrebleu! Nuns' honour attacked;The week in view;Opinion

11th June 1999 at 01:00
AS THE country apathetically approached the European elections, Cambridge just about joined the 20th century and Chris Woodhead got it in the neck - again. It was also a week of allegedly negligent nuns and of art.

After 488 years, St John's College, Cambridge has appointed a woman president. Jane Heal will take up the post, second in seniority to the Master, in October. Dr Heal said: "It's good to see things moving on."

The chief inspector of schools will not be moving on, despite Lord Puttnam, the film-maker, who has been put in charge of the morale-boosting teaching "Oscars," accusing him of conducting a "reign of terror" in schools. The Labour peer reportedly told a Sunday newspaper that teachers needed someone to "go in and love them and offer support, optimism and affection." The accusation was "simply silly", retorted Mr Woodhead, and in "exaggerated language".

Parents with daughters at St Clothilde's, a girls' independent in Lechlade, Stockton on Tees, could be forgiven for using strong language: the owners, a French religious order, closed the school while the pupils were halfway through A-levels. Eighteen irate parents are suing the nuns for breach of contract and negligent misrepresentation.

"It was the French nuns who did the dirty on us and it made it twice as difficult that Christians had misled us," said one mother.

On the subject of deception, remember the Leeds 13, the art students who faked a trip to the Costa del Sol last year in pursuit of qualifications? They're at it again. This time with a final degree show featuring genuine works by artists including Rodin, Henry Moore and Damien Hirst, instead of their own.

One critic commented: "They made a shrewd point last year by the way they hoodwinked the media and the art world, and maybe this year confirms the important point that the path to success in modern art is through notoriety. But it sounds like a complete abrogation of responsibility as a degree show."

The ubiquitous Mr Hirst is among 27 artists who are doing their bit for the Balkans. UNICEF is raising money with 32-page colouring books featuring line drawings donated by the artists for Kosovo refugees and 70,000 will be distributed, with coloured pencils, to children in camps in Albania and Macedonia.

The home of decorative art, the Victoria and Albert Museum, is due for a revamp, says its new chairwoman, Paula Ridley. She said the Vamp;A was perceived as a "dusty and old-fashioned place" and that many people had no idea of its contents. A radical overhaul of lighting and signs was needed.

Some curators devoted to esoteric subjects - such as one who had spent 30 years studying cork at the taxpayers' expense - should look at broadening their horizons, warned Ms Ridley. Perhaps the Leeds 13 could help.

Diane Spencer

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