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?"

Susan Sarandon described David Bowie as
peopleSusan Sarandon reveals more on her David Bowie romance
Arsenal supporters gather for a recent ‘fan party’ in New Jersey
sportDidier Drogba returns to Chelsea on one-year deal
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Arts and Entertainment
The Secret Cinema performance of Back to the Future has been cancelled again
Life and Style
Balmain's autumn/winter 2014 campaign, shot by Mario Sorrenti and featuring Binx Walton, Cara Delevingne, Jourdan Dunn, Ysaunny Brito, Issa Lish and Kayla Scott
fashionHow Olivier Rousteing is revitalising the house of Balmain
Arts and Entertainment
Christian Grey cradles Ana in the Fifty Shades of Grey film
filmFifty Shades of Grey trailer provokes moral outrage in US
BBC broadcaster and presenter Evan Davis, who will be taking over from Jeremy Paxman on Newsnight
peopleForget Paxman - what will Evan Davis be like on Newsnight?
Life and Style
fashionCustomer complained about the visibly protruding ribs
newsComedy club forced to apologise as maggots eating a dead pigeon fall out of air-conditioning
Arts and Entertainment
Jo Brand says she's mellowed a lot
tvJo Brand says shows encourage people to laugh at the vulnerable
Life and Style
People may feel that they're procrastinating by watching TV in the evening
Tovey says of homeless charity the Pillion Trust : 'If it weren't for them and the park attendant I wouldn't be here today.'
Rhys Williams
commonwealth games
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
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

Early Years Teachers Required

£21000 - £35000 per annum: Randstad Education Cambridge: Early Years Teachers ...

Geography Teacher

£85 - £140 per day: Randstad Education Cheshire: We require a teacher of Geogr...

Qualified Early Years Teachers Required

£21000 - £35000 per annum: Randstad Education Cambridge: Qualifed Early Years ...

Do you want to work in Education?

Negotiable: Randstad Education Cheshire: Are you a dynamic and energetic gradu...

Day In a Page

Evan Davis: The BBC’s wolf in sheep’s clothing to take over at Newsnight

The BBC’s wolf in sheep’s clothing

What will Evan Davis be like on Newsnight?
Finding the names for America’s shame: What happens to the immigrants crossing the US-Mexico border without documents who never make it past the Arizona desert?

Finding the names for America’s shame

The immigrants crossing the US-Mexico border without documents who never make it past the Arizona desert
Inside a church for Born Again Christians: Speaking to God in a Manchester multiplex

Inside a church for Born Again Christians

As Britain's Anglican church struggles to establish its modern identity, one branch of Christianity is booming
Rihanna, Kim Kardashian and me: How Olivier Rousteing is revitalising the house of Balmain

Olivier Rousteing is revitalising the house of Balmain

Parisian couturier Pierre Balmain made his name dressing the mid-century jet set. Today, Olivier Rousteing – heir to the house Pierre built – is celebrating their 21st-century equivalents. The result? Nothing short of Balmania
Cancer, cardiac arrest, HIV and homelessness - and he's only 39

Incredible survival story of David Tovey

Tovey went from cooking for the Queen to rifling through bins for his supper. His is a startling story of endurance against the odds – and of a social safety net failing at every turn
Backhanders, bribery and abuses of power have soared in China as economy surges

Bribery and abuses of power soar in China

The bribery is fuelled by the surge in China's economy but the rules of corruption are subtle and unspoken, finds Evan Osnos, as he learns the dark arts from a master
Commonwealth Games 2014: Highland terriers stole the show at the opening ceremony

Highland terriers steal the show at opening ceremony

Gillian Orr explores why a dog loved by film stars and presidents is finally having its day
German art world rocked as artists use renowned fat sculpture to distil schnapps

Brewing the fat from artwork angers widow of sculptor

Part of Joseph Beuys' 1982 sculpture 'Fettecke' used to distil schnapps
BBC's The Secret History of Our Streets reveals a fascinating window into Britain's past

BBC takes viewers back down memory lane

The Secret History of Our Streets, which returns with three films looking at Scottish streets, is the inverse of Benefits Street - delivering warmth instead of cynicism
Joe, film review: Nicolas Cage delivers an astonishing performance in low budget drama

Nicolas Cage shines in low-budget drama Joe

Cage plays an ex-con in David Gordon Green's independent drama, which has been adapted from a novel by Larry Brown
How to make your own gourmet ice lollies, granitas, slushy cocktails and frozen yoghurt

Make your own ice lollies and frozen yoghurt

Think outside the cool box for this summer's tempting frozen treats
Ford Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time, with sales topping 4.1 million since 1976

Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time

Sales have topped 4.1 million since 1976. To celebrate this milestone, four Independent writers recall their Fiestas with pride
10 best reed diffusers

Heaven scent: 10 best reed diffusers

Keep your rooms smelling summery and fresh with one of these subtle but distinctive home fragrances that’ll last you months
Commonwealth Games 2014: Female boxers set to compete for first time

Female boxers set to compete at Commonwealth Games for first time

There’s no favourites and with no headguards anything could happen
Five things we’ve learned so far about Manchester United under Louis van Gaal

Five things we’ve learned so far about United under Van Gaal

It’s impossible to avoid the impression that the Dutch manager is playing to the gallery a little