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A tip of a school?;Diary

PITY the poor souls on the DFEE's education action zones team - cast out across the country to inspect bids in the furthest corners of England.

We hear of one intrepid group despatched to a northern borough believed not unadjacent to Blackburn with Darwen. Far from the cosy comforts of Sanctuary Buildings, they watched the drizzle descend as they crossed the Pennines and the signals on their fancy mobile phones splutter out.

At the station they caught a taxi to the school heading the bid. Now, action zones tend almost by definition to be in, shall we say, the rough end of town but our wide-eyed civil servants were still unprepared for the deprivation they found.

The playground was cracked and potholed, razor wire barbed the top of the walls, huge bins lined the perimeter ... and in the centre, one solitary temporary building. "Can you take us to the head, please mate?" they asked the lonely man within.

"I would if this were a school, son," he answered. "But that's next door. This is the council tip."

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