Education: Word of Mouth - So how many Labour delegates still know The Red Flag words?

Where there's brass

Tempers at last week's TUC get-together at Blackpool's Winter Gardens might have flared far more than they did, had it not been for the presence of youngsters playing soothing, as well as invigorating, music as delegates assembled for their daily dose of adrenaline.

Trade union hats should be raised to Blackpool's St George's High School Wind Band and the Park School Brass Band for their regular foot-tapping contributions (even Ofsted managed to praise the latter as "excellent and possibly unique" in a recent report). A flute quartet from the Wakefield Girls' High School and a group of super singers from Colne Valley High School, Huddersfield, also provided some entertaining rhythm to cheer delegates.

All part of the service provided by Music for Youth, which is organising more jazz, brass and string accompaniment for next week's Labour party shindig at Blackpool. A brass band from Smithills School, Bolton, will provide the traditional "Red Flag". I wonder how many delegates these days even know the words.

Prison patter

Prisons and young offenders' institutions come under the eagle eye of Chris Woodhead, the Chief Inspector of Schools, whose contract has just been renewed at a vast salary of pounds 115,000. That is perhaps why Ofsted has ordered, not one, but six copies of Angela Devlin's book, Prison Patter (which you may recall was reviewed in Word of Mouth). All of them have gone to a member of the Woodhead army of inspectors.

"It's no easy task inspecting prisons," an Ofsted spokeswoman explained. "It was considered useful to understand some of the language that might be used. After all, this is a serious book."

I only hope those doing bird (or porridge, time or bit - all meaning a period in jail) will beat the Ofsted rap (withstand harsh interrogation), and that the inspectors don't get too screwed (upset or anxious).

And for those who want to keep up with Woodhead's minions, Ms Devlin's splendid dictionary is obtainable from Waterside Press, Domum Road, Winchester, SO23 9NN, priced pounds 12, plus pounds 1.50 p&p.

Manchester ahoy

Every now and then, Manchester strikes the jackpot. Take last week, for instance. The annual residential retreat of the Committee of Vice-Chancellors and Principals was held in Manchester. By coincidence, the CVCP's chairman is Professor Martin Harris, vice-chancellor of the University of Manchester. By further coincidence, the new president of the Association of University Teachers is Chris Bannister, who is also at Manchester University. Last week, however, he was not to be found in the city. He had hopped over to Blackpool for the TUC conference.

Forward with Tony

There's something exciting about going back to your roots. So when I received word from the Ottershaw School Old Boys' Society about last Sunday's reunion to mark its golden jubilee, I anticipated great tidings of great joy. Instead, its president, Tony Forward, gave some old boys six of the best - only verbally, of course.

For instance, he said that Sir Patrick Fairweather, former ambassador to Italy, had broken all contact with the school, as had actor John Challis (pictured above), who plays Boysie in Only Fools and Horses. "When canvassed for support at the stage door by one of his old school chums, he made it clear he had no interest," Forward sighed.

Charlie Whelan, special adviser to Chancellor Gordon Brown, and John Romer, TV presenter of Romer's Egypt, were other ex-pupils to be verbally spanked for their disloyalty. "I'm surprised John Romer, the Egyptologist, wasn't eager for the reunion, if only to examine some living fossils and old bones," he chortled.

But what and where is - or rather, was - this school? It was set up near Chertsey in 1948 - a state school providing public school quality education for the sons of the working class. Alas, it was forced to close in 1980 after Shirley Williams, then still an "old" Labour Education Secretary, killed off the valuable direct grant sector. She clearly held early Blairite notions before turning LibDem.

Old Boys carried on meeting each year, but more and more dropped out. Two faithful supporters were BBC Top Gear presenter Tiff Needell - and toastmaster extraordinary Tony Forward who, incidentally, is a retired police chief superintendent. Last Sunday, he said sadly, was probably the last of the reunions.

Fishing in style

There was never a truer workaholic than Clifford Fisher. He studied art and was strongly advised to become a professional artist. He declined, preferring to teach.

He was the founding head teacher of Malaysia's first comprehensive school and later, back in England, he became head of Beverley School, in Kingston- on-Thames, a boys' secondary modern, which he ran on public school lines - and it worked. There was a boat club, and prefects wore purple gowns. Boys took pride in their school and exam results proved his point.

Clifford retired in 1984 - and prefectorial gowns were scrapped. But I understand they now are back again. As for Clifford, he returned to his other love - painting - and made a success of that as well. If you are anywhere near Eastbourne, his home town, do yourself a favour and visit the exhibition of his work at the Devonshire Club in Hartington Place (hurry up, because the exhibition closes on Saturday).

Not since Canaletto have I found a painter who has got the light of Venice so right. He has experimented with many styles and each painting draws gasps of admiration. Oh, and he has authored more than 30 books, and made telly and radio appearances galore. Not bad for a chap of 76 summers, eh?

And finally...

I recently received an unsolicited little tape through the post. A covering letter asked me to listen to Dr Joel Wallach who, it appears, was nominated for the Nobel Prize in Medicine in 1991. Dr Wallach is heard speaking about health matters, on which I'm no expert, but I found it all quite fascinating. What startled me was the tape's title: Dead doctor's (sic) don't lie! I don't suppose doctors, whether dead or alive, can be held responsible for grammar as well as for bodies.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
Ashley Barnes of Burnley scores their second goal
footballMan City vs Burnley match report
Sir James Dyson: 'Students must be inspired to take up the challenge of engineering'
Life and Style
Apple showed no sign of losing its talent for product launches with the new, slightly larger iPhone 6 making headlines
techSecurity breaches and overhyped start-ups dominated a year in which very little changed (save the size of your phone)
Arts and Entertainment
Catherine (Sarah Lancashire) in Happy Valley ((C) Red Productions/Ben Blackall)
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Education

Recruitment Genius: MIS Officer - Further Education Sector

£20000 - £22000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Operating throughout London and...

The Jenrick Group: Maintenance Planner

£28000 - £32000 per annum + pension + holidays: The Jenrick Group: Maintenance...

The Jenrick Group: Project Manager

£35000 per annum + Pension+Bupa: The Jenrick Group: We are recruiting for an e...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£20000 - £25000 per annum + OTE £35K - £45K: SThree: SThree Group have been we...

Day In a Page

A timely reminder of the bloody anniversary we all forgot

A timely reminder of the bloody anniversary we all forgot

Who remembers that this week we enter the 150th anniversary year of the end of the American Civil War, asks Robert Fisk
Homeless Veterans appeal: Former soldiers pay their respects to a friend who also served

Homeless Veterans appeal

Former soldiers pay their respects to a friend who also served
Downfall of Dustin 'Screech' Diamond, the 'Saved By The Bell' star charged with bar stabbing

Scarred by the bell

The downfall of the TV star charged with bar stabbing
Why 2014 was a year of technological let-downs

Why 2014 was a year of technological let-downs

Security breaches and overhyped start-ups dominated a year in which very little changed (save the size of your phone)
Cuba's golf revolution: But will the revolutionary nation take 'bourgeois' game to its heart?

Will revolutionary Cuba take 'bourgeois' golf to its heart?

Fidel Castro ridiculed the game – but now investment in leisure resort projects is welcome
The Locked Room Mysteries: As a new collection of the genre’s best is published, its editor Otto Penzler explains the rules of engagement

The Locked Room Mysteries

As a new collection of the genre’s best is published, its editor explains the rules of engagement
Amy Adams on playing painter Margaret Keane in Tim Burton's Big Eyes

How I made myself Keane

Amy Adams hadn’t wanted to take the role of artist Margaret Keane, because she’d had enough of playing victims. But then she had a daughter, and saw the painter in a new light
Ed Richards: Parting view of Ofcom chief. . . we hate jokes on the disabled

Parting view of Ofcom chief... we hate jokes on the disabled

Bad language once got TV viewers irate, inciting calls to broadcasting switchboards. But now there is a worse offender, says retiring head of the media watchdog, Ed Richards
A look back at fashion in 2014: Wear in review

Wear in review

A look back at fashion in 2014
Ian Herbert: My 10 hopes for sport in 2015. Might just one of them happen?

Ian Herbert: My 10 hopes for sport in 2015

Might just one of them happen?
War with Isis: The West needs more than a White Knight

The West needs more than a White Knight

Despite billions spent on weapons, the US has not been able to counter Isis's gruesome tactics, says Patrick Cockburn
Return to Helmand: Private Davey Graham recalls the day he was shot by the Taliban

'The day I was shot by the Taliban'

Private Davey Graham was shot five times during an ambush in 2007 - it was the first, controversial photograph to show the dangers our soldiers faced in Helmand province
Revealed: the best and worst airlines for delays

Revealed: the best and worst airlines for delays

Many flyers are failing to claim compensation to which they are entitled, a new survey has found
The stories that defined 2014: From the Scottish independence referendum to the Ice Bucket Challenge, our writers voice their opinions

The stories that defined 2014

From the Scottish independence referendum to the Ice Bucket Challenge, our writers voice their opinions
Stoke-on-Trent becomes first British city to be classified as 'disaster resilient' by the United Nations

Disaster looming? Now you know where to head...

Which British city has become the first to be awarded special 'resilience' status by the UN?