David Blunkett and Estelle Morris are education's man and woman of the year if frequency of appearance in The TES is any way to judge. As, respectively, Education Secretary (mentioned in 585 articles in 1998) and schools minister since the summer reshuffle (mentioned in 122), that may not be unexpected, though Estelle has some way to go to catch up with her predecessor, Stephen Byers (217).
Runner-up Chris Woodhead (263) also comes as little surprise; in fact, one might have expected the man who inspects schools, local authorities and teacher training to have come closer to his boss's score.
Even when taken together, the leaders of the teacher trade unions rated fewer mentions than David Blunkett. David Hart of the National Association of Head Teachers is the clear leader (100), though neither John Dunford at the Secondary Heads Association nor Kay Driver at the Professional Association of Teachers were in post for the whole year.
Nigel de Gruchy's press office at the National Association of Schoolmasters Union of Women Teachers might be thought to have had a better year than Doug McAvoy's at the NUT, though in fact the NUT got more mentions (279) than the NASUWT (160), suggesting that Nigel's success has more to do with his mastery of the punchy comment.
Tim Brighouse, Birmingham's charismatic chief education officer (54), and Graham Lane (96), chair of the education committee of the Local Government Association, swept the board among the local authority figures. In higher education, Ted Wragg (108) at Exeter and Alan Smithers (33), now at Liverpool, top the list with Ted appearing even more often off the back page than on.
At the quangos, Anthea Millett (51) at the Teacher Training Agency put Nick Tate (20) of the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority in the shade,helped by both the teacher-recruitment crisis and the fuss over teacher training inspections, although five of Anthea's appearances were letters she wrote taking issue with TES coverage.
Michael Barber (93) far out-performed his own civil service boss, Michael Bichard (12), even when Barber's regular columns are subtracted.
Liberal Democrat Don Foster (76) won the battle to be opposition spokesperson of the year, helped, no doubt, by the Conservatives' change of education spokesperson during the year. Nevertheless, the sum total of Dave Willetts and Stephen Dorrell still accounts for only 60 mentions.
Margaret Hodge (89), the former chair of the select committee on education, did well during the first part of the year but her elevation to ministerial rank seems to have meant rather fewer appearances of late.
Notable absentees included David Blunkett's dog, Lucy. She regularly appeared in 1997 but did not feature in 1998. The failure of women to make more of the running in a newspaper for a largely female profession edited for the past 10 years by women is perhaps remarkable.
What of 1999? Perhaps, readers will e-mail me with predictions - or e-mail the editor with suggestions about who they want to read more about.
Next week: the buzz-words of 1998 John Howson is a fellow of Oxford Brookes University and runs an education research company. Email: int.edu@lineone. net