Sir Michael Bichard, who has had a long and illustrious career in the public sector as permanent secretary of first the Employment Department and then the Department for Education and Employment as was, has retired from the top job at the University of the Arts London. But he isn't striding off to spend the rest of his life on the golf course. Oh, no. Next month he takes over as director of a new outfit called the Institute of Government. Funded by the Sainsbury family, it will work with senior civil servants and all three major political parties to help politicians be even more effective than they are now. There will be research, workshops, seminars, you name it, to help budding prime ministers and chancellors prepare for power. As a mandarin who worked with Conservative and Labour ministers, including big beasts like David Blunkett, Sir Michael is well placed to give future leaders a piece of his razor-sharp mind. Lucky David Cameron.
So, farewell Greyfriars, the permanent private hall at Oxford University that has trained Franciscan monks and theologians since 1224 and which Peter Stanford wrote about in this supplement on 5 June. Although the Vatican made a last-ditch attempt to save the college, it was apparently too late. According to a spokesman for Oxford, the Capuchin Order, which held the licence from the university, surrendered it at the end of June. "It is up to the Order," said a university spokesman. "They decided to surrender the licence because they didn't think they could keep the hall going."
TESconnect, the new social networking website run by the Times Education Supplement, has lofty aims – quite apart from claims that it will "revolutionise the teaching profession". No, the organisers are looking for love! The website allows teachers to upload lesson plans, to save precious time ("the internet will give back 14.3 million hidden hours to UK teachers by 2012," crows a press release). Teachers will even be able to rate the lesson plans their peers choose to put up for scrutiny. Such dialogue among the teaching profession! But the people behind the site clearly have their priorities right. They say that, like the TES Chatline, the social networking site could lead to romance, love... even marriage!
An anomaly in this year's A-levels: there were only two students who took the Irish A-level in England this year. Both got B grades. Not that we're insinuating anything (like collusion). We're just saying, OK?
More exams stuff: we hear that one year (we're not sure when), a student did the economics exam in Welsh. So the exam board had to call in a translator to put the answer paper into English. It was then marked. Wonder how much that rigmarole cost...
First there was Woodstock. Then there was Glastonbury. Now we have the University of Cambridge Festival of Ideas. The ancient institution will throw open its doors as 100 events are held between 22 October and 2 November. The Festival follows on from the success of the Cambridge Science Festival and is the first of its kind to celebrate the arts, humanities and social sciences. Some famous names will be appearing: Radio 4 presenter Evan Davis, Liberal Democrat MP Vince Cable, and former leader of the Conservative Party Michael Howard. Those with kiddies should look out for Family Day on 25 October.
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