Word of Mouth: Raving over bad reviews

Woodhead the bookseller

Have you ever heard of anyone who has actually been happy to receive a poor book review? Well Brian Cox is such a man. The most recent opus he has edited, Literacy Is Not Enough: Essays on the importance of reading (Manchester University Press, pounds 9.99), is going into a second print, partly thanks to the slating it received from Chris Woodhead, our much-loved Chief Inspector of Schools - the only negative review it attracted.

"I was delighted with this poor review," Professor Cox told me. "Its only effect was to make teachers rush to buy it."

In a strange way, this repeats history. Brian Cox, who until his retirement in 1993, was the Professor of English Literature at the University of Manchester, will long be remembered as the co-editor of the series of Black Papers on Education, first published almost exactly 30 years ago, in March 1969.

That day was described in the House of Commons by Edward Short, then Secretary of State for Education, as "one of the blackest days for education in the past hundred years". The book was part of a reaction to progressive education and the kind of zany teaching methods then adopted by chaps like Woodhead.

But for that Short attack, it might well have gone unnoticed. Instead, it became a best seller. What is stranger still: many of the criticisms contained in the Black Papers (described by many on the left as "reactionary", even "fascist") have now been embraced by New Labour. Plus ca change, plus c'est la meme chose.

Oh what a lovely chancellor

This morning, Lord Attenborough and a retinue of colourfully gowned notables will solemnly climb the stage of the Gardner Centre at Sussex University to the Prelude de Carousel by Lully, played by the Trinity College of Music Brass Ensemble.

They might have been better advised to strike up "Oh, What a Lovely War", title song of the film Richard Attenborough directed in 1967. You will recall that it was set in Brighton and Dickie, as he was then known, hired a goodly number of undergraduates to take part. He has been closely connected with the university ever since and became its pro-chancellor in 1970. Today he will be installed as chancellor in succession to the Duke of Richmond and Gordon, who retired last year. He has chosen three friends to receive honorary doctorates. They are the actor Sir Ian Holm, another Oh, What a Lovely War star; actor-director-writer Bryan Forbes (The Angry Silence; The L-Shaped Room; The Railway Children); and Michael Stern, headteacher of the Waterford Kamhlaba United World College, South Africa, where Lord A is a governor.

Top mark for UCAS

A few champagne corks will pop at Cheltenham next month in celebration of this week's Charter Mark award to the Universities and Colleges Admissions Service. This distinction has been earned as a result of client satisfaction - reports from just some of the 2.5 million students who, year in, year out, apply through UCAS for places.

Now that's a pretty good record for the 300 people employed by this organisation. Top charter marks to them all, and to Tony Higgins, its effervescent chief executive. The clearing period is likely to be busier than ever following the next lot of A-level results in mid-August. The Independent, in collaboration with UCAS, will provide the only official guide to university and college vacancies on a day-by-day basis.

Breaking records

I decided to have a "dry run" for the millennium. So I escaped to a village in France. Fine. But, as a result, I missed our dear Queen's New Year's Honours list. I have only just caught up with it and was delighted to see that Gerard O'Donnell had received a gong. His OBE is well deserved and reflects his long and unstinting contribution to further education. Principal of West Thames College for the past 12 years - a college awarded the Government's Charter Mark - he also chairs the 160-member Further Education National Consortium. He is believed to hold the distinction of being Britain's longest-serving FE college principal, becoming head of Wellington and SW Somerset FE Centres as early as 1969 and, seven years later, of Rockingham College of FE (now Dearne Valley College, Rotherham). He is also in the Guinness Book of Records - for the longest continuous speech, delivered in June 1959, when he was sweet 21 and reading sociology and government at the University of Hull, where he chaired the Conservative Association. It was a Rag stunt and lasted 29 hours and five minutes. Its title: Progressive Conservatism Anti-Unionism. He clearly talked himself out of Toryism, for he ended up some years later standing as Liberal candidate against Edward Du Cann in Taunton.

And finally...

Staff at the University of Leeds are having to pay pounds 2.50 for parking their cars. That, says Richard Howells of the Institute of Communication Studies, is a rise of 250 per cent since he started work at the university four years ago. Writing in Reporter, the campus newsletter, Dr Howells poses the following reasonable question: "May I request that either my salary is increased in line with the cost of parking, or that the cost of parking is reduced in line with my salary?"

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Education

Guru Careers: Graduate Software Developer / Junior Developer

£20 - 28k + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Graduate Software Develop...

Recruitment Genius: Graduate Trainee Teacher - Maths

£18000 - £21000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This organization is the larges...

Guru Careers: Graduate Software Developer / Junior Developer

£20 - 28k + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Graduate Software Develop...

Reach Volunteering: Would you like to volunteer your expertise as Chair of Governors for Livability?

Voluntary and unpaid, reasonable expenses are reimbursable: Reach Volunteering...

Day In a Page

Fifa corruption: The 161-page dossier that exposes the organisation's dark heart

The 161-page dossier that exposes Fifa's dark heart

How did a group of corrupt officials turn football’s governing body into what was, in essence, a criminal enterprise? Chris Green and David Connett reveal all
Mediterranean migrant crisis: 'If Europe thinks bombing boats will stop smuggling, it will not. We will defend ourselves,' says Tripoli PM

Exclusive interview with Tripoli PM Khalifa al-Ghweil

'If Europe thinks bombing boats will stop smuggling, it will not. We will defend ourselves'
Raymond Chandler's Los Angeles: How the author foretold the Californian water crisis

Raymond Chandler's Los Angeles

How the author foretold the Californian water crisis
Chinese artist who posted funny image of President Xi Jinping facing five years in prison as authorities crackdown on dissent in the arts

Art attack

Chinese artist who posted funny image of President Xi Jinping facing five years in prison
Marc Jacobs is putting Cher in the limelight as the face of his latest campaign

Cher is the new face of Marc Jacobs

Alexander Fury explains why designers are turning to august stars to front their lines
Parents of six-year-old who beat leukaemia plan to climb Ben Nevis for cancer charity

'I'm climbing Ben Nevis for my daughter'

Karen Attwood's young daughter Yasmin beat cancer. Now her family is about to take on a new challenge - scaling Ben Nevis to help other children
10 best wedding gift ideas

It's that time of year again... 10 best wedding gift ideas

Forget that fancy toaster, we've gone off-list to find memorable gifts that will last a lifetime
Paul Scholes column: With the Premier League over for another year, here are my end of season awards

Paul Scholes column

With the Premier League over for another year, here are my end of season awards
Heysel disaster 30th anniversary: Liverpool have seen too much tragedy to forget fateful day in Belgium

Liverpool have seen too much tragedy to forget Heysel

Thirty years ago, 39 fans waiting to watch a European Cup final died as a result of a fatal cocktail of circumstances. Ian Herbert looks at how a club dealt with this tragedy
Amir Khan vs Chris Algieri: Khan’s audition for Floyd Mayweather may turn into a no-win situation, says Frank Warren

Khan’s audition for Mayweather may turn into a no-win situation

The Bolton fighter could be damned if he dazzles and damned if he doesn’t against Algieri, the man last seen being decked six times by Pacquiao, says Frank Warren
Blundering Tony Blair quits as Middle East peace envoy – only Israel will miss him

Blundering Blair quits as Middle East peace envoy – only Israel will miss him

For Arabs – and for Britons who lost their loved ones in his shambolic war in Iraq – his appointment was an insult, says Robert Fisk
Fifa corruption arrests: All hail the Feds for riding to football's rescue

Fifa corruption arrests

All hail the Feds for riding to football's rescue, says Ian Herbert
Isis in Syria: The Kurdish enclave still resisting the tyranny of President Assad and militant fighters

The Kurdish enclave still resisting the tyranny of Assad and Isis

In Syrian Kurdish cantons along the Turkish border, the progressive aims of the 2011 uprising are being enacted despite the war. Patrick Cockburn returns to Amuda
How I survived Cambodia's Killing Fields: Acclaimed surgeon SreyRam Kuy celebrates her mother's determination to escape the US

How I survived Cambodia's Killing Fields

Acclaimed surgeon SreyRam Kuy celebrates her mother's determination to escape to the US
Stephen Mangan interview: From posh buffoon to pregnant dad, the actor has quite a range

How Stephen Mangan got his range

Posh buffoon, hapless writer, pregnant dad - Mangan is certainly a versatile actor