Word of Mouth

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The Independent Online
Raising the ante

An increasing number of universities have cottoned on to the idea that they might do more to help themselves by appointing a "development officer" - a euphemism for fundraiser. Independent schools have successfully raised funds for centuries. But state schools are only just waking up to the fact that if you never ask, you'll never get. Fundraising for them is tough. After all, state-maintained schools should be maintained by the state.

So when Case - the Council for Advancement and Support of Education - called a three-day schools conference at Lancaster University to take a professional look at fundraising, I decided to be a fly on the wall. Lo and behold, a few state schools had joined the many independent schools represented.

Among those present was Barbara Gibbs, the head teacher of Newstead Wood School at Orpington, Kent. It has 854 girls and from September will expand to more than 900. She would never raise money for textbooks - still the job of the local authority - but some books fall outside that category. The school also raised money to buy a grand piano, and pupils are working on a cookery book and hoping to win a Tesco award. All rather small fry compared with some of the independents present, whose chaps talked of thousands, even millions of pounds.

My favourite comment was made by the American wife of a schools development officer, who exclaimed: "The British have alligator arms - they can't reach into their pockets." I think she got it about right.

Where there's a will

Made your will yet? If not, you are in the company of 69 per cent of other adults in England and Wales. How do I know? Because last week was Make a Will Week and at that Case conference I learnt that legacies provided charities in England and Wales with more than pounds 1.1bn last year. But though some charities obtain more than 60 per cent of their income this way, only 1.8 per cent of bequests goes to education. Nick Chambers, who chaired the conference, is director of development at Lancaster Royal Grammar School, one of our oldest state schools (it dates back to 1235). Just think: if John Gardyner, a local merchant, had not left a bequest in 1469 to provide free grammar education, this beautiful school might never have survived.


What on earth is going on at Middlesex University? Its communications were once second to none. It produced a fine weekly newspaper called North Circular, which was suddenly confined to barracks - sorry, campus. Now it has even been withdrawn from the Web. Middlesex then produced a magazine called Forward, to appear twice a year. It showed up only once. There used to be a daily press digest put out to staff. It has been "delayed".

Those responsible for running the university seem inclined to communicate as little as possible. So spare a thought for Marie Jackson, who has just arrived from the British Library to be director of communications.

Let's make music: 1

Once again, the Schools Music Association managed to collect more than 500 children to delight us with their music at the Royal Festival Hall last week. Choirs from schools in Bolton and Derby, orchestras from Hertfordshire and Camden, north London, a brass band from Southampton and a recorder consort from Copthall School, in north-west London, kept us enthralled for nearly three hours. My bouquet goes to Angela Gilby, whose conducting of Paul Hart's highly entertaining Cartoon allowed the West Hertfordshire Wind Orchestra to earn a standing ovation. The Samba Band from Park High School, Harrow, provided a choreographed feast of drumbeat and movement. What talent these youngsters displayed! Thanks are due to the teachers, and to Maxwell Pryce, SMA secretary, for organising it all again.

Let's make music: 2

And there's good news for schools that performed at the SMA concert. Two of the country's biggest music companies are to give away instruments worth thousands of pounds.

Last year, Boosey & Hawkes, the instrument manufacturers, ran a "partners plan" to provide new instruments at vastly reduced prices, on condition that the recipients handed their old instruments to newcomers. Normans, suppliers of school music, found homes for 500 instruments at a sale value of more than pounds 500,000. Now Normans and Boosey & Hawkes have come up with another 250 instruments valued at pounds 150,000. But they have to go to "keen musical youngsters".

And finally...

Australia's Education Review has published answers from children on love, marriage and sex. Here are a few:

"Once I'm done with kindergarten, I'm going to find me a wife." (Tom, aged five); "It's better for girls to be single but not for boys. Boys need somebody to clean up after them." (Lynette, nine); "It's not always how you look. Look at me. I'm handsome like anything and I haven't got anybody to marry me yet." (Gary, seven).