Education Diary: Marital issues on the agenda at the Commons select committee

A gaggle of ministers was asked to give evidence last week to the Commons select committee that tracks the department for curtains and soft furnishings (dcfs). The reason that Barry Sheerman, the chairman, wanted them all together is that they all have responsibility for child poverty – so up rocked Stephen Timms, Beverley Hughes, Andy Purnell, Ed Balls and Yvette Cooper. The latter two are partners in real life, the first husband and wife team to appear before Sheerman. Being more important than anyone else, the Schools Secretary, Ed Balls, was asked to open the batting and captain the team. No one demurred. When Yvette wanted to say something, Sheerman declared: "I think Yvette just winked at me that she wanted to come in. Is that all right?" So Ed gave way, and Yvette put her oar in. Maybe she would like a Sheerman figure at home in the kitchen, saying: "I think Yvette just winked at me that she would like you to do the washing up/children's baths/make the pasta/put the light out now."

Fun and games at the University and College Union this week. Our education editor rang the UCU's main number asking for Dan Ashley, the press officer, to be told that he was on holiday for three weeks and that he should call Trevor Philips, the other press officer at the other bit of the UCU. For those who have not kept track of the lecturers' unions, they have merged into one, but still keep their old offices and old jobs at the AUT and Natfhe. Our editor rang Trevor Philips. His voicemail said that he was on holiday, and that callers should ring Dan Ashley. What was this? A Whitehall farce? A third call was made to Dan Ashley's direct number, on which was a message instructing callers to ring Paula Lanning, the head of communications and public affairs at the UCU. Our editor rang and left a message, and has yet to receive a reply.

Professor Alan Smithers wrote a report earlier this month that took a very dim view of the new diplomas being promoted by the Government. The dcfs hit back with arguments of their own, not forgetting to do a bit of smearing in the process. According to a helpful member of the dcfs press office, Smithers' report was a sloppy and partial piece of work – and, moreover, it was badly spelt. Asked about this slur, Smithers ran his report through the spellcheck and found it to be clean. Ditto the press release. Could the dcfs have been thinking of an early – and not proof-read – draft that had done the rounds? The dcfs may not like Smithers' message, but they should remember that he is a respected figure and an adviser to the Commons select committee, and has been commissioned by the Government to write several reports, which he does without fear or favour.

Why is David Eastwood leaving the top job at the Higher Education Funding Council after having been in post for less than two years? The answer is perplexing observers of the higher education scene, who see him as a superlative operator, clever, diplomatic and steely. Eastwood is not yet 50, but he is off to do the vice-chancellor's job at Birmingham University in April next year. They assume that if he were happy and had freedom to manoeuvre, he would have stayed at Hefce until it made sense to jump ship to a more highly paid job as vice-chancellor.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Education

Tradewind Recruitment: Year 1 Primary teacher

£120 - £150 per day: Tradewind Recruitment: An excellent primary school based ...

AER Teachers: Cover Supervisor - Central London - September

£70 - £80 per day + competitive rates: AER Teachers: This outstanding school s...

AER Teachers: SEN Teaching Assistant - London - September

£65 - £75 per day + competitive rates: AER Teachers: This central London prima...

AER Teachers: Graduate Primary Teaching Assistant

£65 - £75 per day + competitive rates: AER Teachers: A good primary school in ...

Day In a Page

Blairites be warned, this could be the moment Labour turns into Syriza

Andrew Grice: Inside Westminster

Blairites be warned, this could be the moment Labour turns into Syriza
Jon Stewart: The voice of Democrats who felt Obama had failed to deliver on his 'Yes We Can' slogan, and the voter he tried hardest to keep onside

The voter Obama tried hardest to keep onside

Outgoing The Daily Show host, Jon Stewart, became the voice of Democrats who felt the President had failed to deliver on his ‘Yes We Can’ slogan. Tim Walker charts the ups and downs of their 10-year relationship on screen
A Very British Coup, part two: New novel in pipeline as Jeremy Corbyn's rise inspires sequel

A Very British Coup, part two

New novel in pipeline as Jeremy Corbyn's rise inspires sequel
Philae lander data show comets could have brought 'building blocks of life' to Earth

Philae lander data show comets could have brought 'building blocks of life' to Earth

Icy dust layer holds organic compounds similar to those found in living organisms
What turns someone into a conspiracy theorist? Study to look at why some are more 'receptive' to such theories

What turns someone into a conspiracy theorist?

Study to look at why some are more 'receptive' to such theories
Chinese web dissenters using coded language to dodge censorship filters and vent frustration at government

Are you a 50-center?

Decoding the Chinese web dissenters
The Beatles film Help, released 50 years ago, signalled the birth of the 'metrosexual' man

Help signalled birth of 'metrosexual' man

The Beatles' moptop haircuts and dandified fashion introduced a new style for the modern Englishman, says Martin King
Hollywood's new diet: Has LA stolen New York's crown as the ultimate foodie trend-setter?

Hollywood's new diet trends

Has LA stolen New York's crown as the ultimate foodie trend-setter?
6 best recipe files

6 best recipe files

Get organised like a Bake Off champion and put all your show-stopping recipes in one place
Ashes 2015: Steven Finn goes from being unselectable to simply unplayable

Finn goes from being unselectable to simply unplayable

Middlesex bowler claims Ashes hat-trick of Clarke, Voges and Marsh
Mullah Omar, creator of the Taliban, is dead... for the fourth time

Mullah Omar, creator of the Taliban, is dead... again

I was once told that intelligence services declare their enemies dead to provoke them into popping up their heads and revealing their location, says Robert Fisk
Margaret Attwood on climate change: 'Time is running out for our fragile, Goldilocks planet'

Margaret Atwood on climate change

The author looks back on what she wrote about oil in 2009, and reflects on how the conversation has changed in a mere six years
New Dr Seuss manuscript discovered: What Pet Should I Get? goes on sale this week

New Dr Seuss manuscript discovered

What Pet Should I Get? goes on sale this week
Oculus Rift and the lonely cartoon hedgehog who could become the first ever virtual reality movie star

The cartoon hedgehog leading the way into a whole new reality

Virtual reality is the 'next chapter' of entertainment. Tim Walker gives it a try
Ants have unique ability to switch between individual and collective action, says study

Secrets of ants' teamwork revealed

The insects have an almost unique ability to switch between individual and collective action