WORD OF MOUTH

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The Independent Online
OUP mints it:

With National Libraries Week in full swing, you might think the Government would produce a wee windfall for university libraries, so desperately in need of help that students are raiding the public libraries. Even Matthew Evans, who heads Faber & Faber and the Library and Information Commission, has said that university libraries "can't cope any more". Well, Oxford University Press, one of the university's "departments", has published no fewer than 4,800 titles during 1996-97 and developed lucrative markets in Eastern Europe and Southern Africa. It has done so well that it is giving each of Oxford's 39 college libraries pounds 10,000 a year for the next three years. On top of this, OUP has given the university pounds 20m for capital projects. That's on top of the pounds 10m donated in 1994-95 and the pounds 6m in cash and pounds 500,000 in kind that the university gets from OUP each year. To think that one or two other universities have actually disbanded their own presses for lack of business ...

Wake up, local authorities!

Libraries and books might become obsolete if the first of the Three Rs is not properly tackled by teachers. Yes, yes, I know. Most infants and junior teachers do listen to each child read. But far too many label poor readers as lazy, clumsy and undisciplined, instead of dyslexic. In its survey of 102 local education authorities, published this week, the British Dyslexia Association (BDA) reveals a national scandal: that most authorities fail to implement the 1994 Code of Practice for the Identification and Assessment of Special Educational Needs. What is worse, too many dyslexic children receive no help whatsoever until they have fallen at least four years behind their peers in reading. A child in Year 6 (aged 10-11, or just before moving to secondary school) won't receive an SEN statement unless the reading age is six years and five months or lower. On Tuesday, Professor Michael Barber, who heads the DfEE's standards and efficiency unit, launched the BBC Education/BDA pack, Dyslexia in the Primary Classroom. Perhaps it will wake up those lazy LEAs. Some universities have already set up units to help the increasing number of dyslexic students. If their problem had been properly diagnosed by age seven, such expensive units would be unnecessary. And more books could be enjoyed.

A revolting minister:

It has taken Kim Howells, our minister for lifelong learning, nearly 30 years to admit he once nurtured a burning ambition to overthrow the American government. Dr Howells was opening a graduate centre on the Hendon campus of Middlesex University when he recalled his own student days, at Hornsey College of Art (later to merge with Middlesex Poly). It was May 1968 and students at Hornsey had jumped on the bandwagon of student riots in Paris, Berlin and Berkeley. "I told my mum, I'm going to give up painting ... it's bourgeois individualism," Kim told a large audience of wide-eyed academics and students. "All I wanted to do," he added, "was bring down the American government!" No wonder Professor Michael Driscoll, vice-chancellor, introduced the much-reformed minister as one of Middlesex's most "revolting" students.

Food of love:

My week has been filled with glorious music. First was a weekend concert to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the Independent Schools Information Service performed by the dedicated National ISIS Strings Academy. Sheer bliss. I'm not surprised that six out of 30 in this orchestra have applied to read music at universities and the Royal College. Then came another treat: first night of Schools Proms at the Royal Albert Hall. All good tastes were catered for, from trad jazz performed by 15- to 17-year-olds at Norton Knatchbull School at Ashford, Kent, to Dvorak's American Quartet, sensitively delivered by the City of Belfast School of Music's Coffey Quartet. Again, I was not surprised to learn that all five members of Hills Road Sixth Form College's joyful brass quintet are already studying - three at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama and two at Oxford University. But I was totally overwhelmed with surprise to hear an exceptionally wide-ranging performance of brass band music from Handel to Hoagy Carmichael by Wardle High School Year 8 in Rochdale. Yes, you read correctly: Year 8 (12- to 13-year-olds). The school has a full brass band in each year group, plus orchestras and woodwind ensembles. Congratulations to Larry Westland, director of music for youth, who has been running these annual proms since their inception 23 years ago.

New job for Gee:

Ruth Gee has landed a new job - and it's a great deal better and more challenging than the one she held previously - head of the Association for Colleges - and lost to Roger Ward. David Blunkett this week launched British Training International, a pounds 1.5m company which aims to increase British business in overseas vocational markets. Ms Gee is to be chief executive of this remarkable body. Remarkable, because it will remain independent (limited by guarantee), yet enjoy the support of just about every major body in sight, including the Government itself, the British Council, the Royal Society of Arts, City and Guilds - even Ward's Association of Colleges.

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