The Izbicki Report

News From The Front Line of Education
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Casting off

If you, like me, are a devoted follower of Desert Island Discs, you must have wondered how you might fare if you really ever ended up on some lonely beach. Well, the BBC is to transform its fictitious island into reality. Only there won't be any records or a gramophone: there will be no radio or telly either.

The plan is to cast 30 men, women and children on to a remote Scottish island for the start of the millennium and watch their progress (or disintegration) for a year - without any of the frills that we have grown to expect from our modern way of life.

It won't be an island one would choose for a holiday. Castaways will have to build their own homes, and survive a tough Scottish winter. They will be expected to cultivate the land and keep animals.

The series - to be called Castaway 2000 - is to be produced by Lion Television for BBC Scotland, but shown nationally on BBC1. Three 50-minute documentaries will go out towards the end of this year, showing how the 30 people were chosen with the help of expert academics from Edinburgh and Glasgow Caledonian Universities.

Auditions for the castaways are being conducted now and they need teachers for the children. If you want to apply, write to Lion Television, 6 Woodside Crescent, Glasgow G3 7UL.

The 75-minute hour

When Alexandra Buckland-Wright was at primary school, her reading and spelling were poor. Not until she was 17 was she assessed as being dyslexic. To let her keep up and compete with her fellow sixth formers, she was allowed an extra 15 minutes in every hour of her A-level exams.

Alex ended up with an A in geography, a B in politics and a D in history, and won a place at Liverpool University, where she was also allowed that vital extra 15 minutes per hour of exam time. She has just received a first class honours degree in geography.

Is that it? No way. She's returning to the university to study for a master's degree.

If her surname is familiar to doctors reading this column (there are a few!), her dad is Professor Christopher Buckland-Wright, the professor of radiological anatomy at Guy's, St Thomas's and King's Hospital Medical School, London University.

And guess what? He, too, suffers from dyslexia.

Pedalling ex-cathedra

If you happened to see a young chap riding a bike as if the devil was after him over the past two weeks, fret not. It was Robert Okine, who is the son of the Archbishop of West Africa, and who was racing from one cathedral to the next in southern England - 10 cathedrals over a distance of 350 miles.

All this to raise enough funds to study in Britain and follow in dad's educational, if not his vocational, footsteps. Young Robert has been offered a place at the Southampton Institute of Higher Education, and the sponsorship that he will collect from the ride will secure his start on an honours law degree course in September.

He kicked off the tour in London at St Paul's on 12 July following the 5pm service, and ended the long ride at Truro Cathedral on Tuesday, having attended services at each cathedral en route.

He was not alone on this gruelling ride. Ross Needham, a law student at Sheffield University, accompanied him all the way. His uncle, Hedley Needham, is a Derbyshire solicitor who met and befriended Robert Okine Snr when he came to England from Ghana 41 years ago to study theology.

The two lost touch - but met again when the archbishop attended the Lambeth Conference last year. It's really quite a small world, isn't it?

Point of no return

Anyone who thought David Warner would return to the University of Central England, will have to think again. Just over a year ago, UCE seconded him to look after the Swansea Institute of Higher Education.

Professor Warner, who has marketing running through his veins, managed to lift the institute's fortunes in double quick time, and student applications rose by seven per cent over last year (compared to a national average applications drop of 2.5 per cent).

Little wonder that he been appointed the Swansea institute's permanent principal and chief executive.

Tough on Brum, though.