You heard it here first

6th January 2006 at 00:00
To Hull, where techie students raised pound;1,300 for their twin town, Freetown in Sierra Leone, by carrying out their own ebay-style auction at the city's college.

The most sought-after prize was the precious parking space occupied by the principal Elaine McMahon - who put it up for auction, raising pound;111.

The lucky winner, the college's health and safety guru Graham Kettlewell, will be able to park in her slot until July 31.

Will she have kicked the driving habit by the time she gets her space back?

"We'll have to wait and see," she tells me.

Actually, Elaine says she is not much interested in cars and was barely able to remember what she drives herself - "an MG Rover thing, not a sports car though."

Graham's car is, she says, much more impressive. I wait to hear whether he will be a gentleman and give his boss a lift to work when the promised big freeze sets in.

Apart from the spectacle of Hull's principal bending against the cruel North Sea wind as she struggles through the icy streets of Hull, what else can I predict for 2006?

Well, there will of course be several initiatives from the Government, all of which will be "welcomed" by all the various "stakeholders" in the "sector" - although each will warn that, of course, more money will be needed to make it work.

New words will be introduced into the English language to help us all talk about the things we feel awkward about.

We already have "parenting", which sounds reassuringly cuddly compared with the more Victorian-sounding "bringing up children", "diversity" which is much less threatening than "equal rights" and ADHD, previously known as bad behaviour and now treatable with amphetamine.

Of course educational psychologists prefer us to refer to the drug by its proper brand name of Ritalin.

But the big buzzword of 2005 was "contestability". Much nicer than "competition". There will be more language to learn this year, I'm sure, but what else will change? What will become of the Foster report on colleges?

Sir Andrew Foster says colleges should be about skills. Any talk to the contrary is dangerous.

So the statue of Foster - whose opinions we must all be seen to cherish - looks down on us, smiling like Lenin.

And, for the moment, most of us look up dutifully before furtively glancing from side to side in case we are being watched by the secret police.

But, by the end of 2006, the pigeons will have done their worst and there will almost certainly be a new cause in town.

And I reckon the smart money is on adult learning.

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