Education Diary: Steve Sinnott's legacy lives on

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The Independent Online

Steve Sinnott, the general secretary of the NUT who died last weekend at 56, was widely praised for his advocacy of comprehensive education in Britain. Less well known were his efforts overseas. He worked tirelessly to stop the Ethiopian government from harassing the Ethiopian Teachers' Association, and even visited the association's president, Dr Taye Woldesmiate, in prison in Addis Ababa, an act that helped to secure his release in 2002. Sinnott's death is not just a great loss for the UK; he will be much missed on the international education scene, too.

The Teachers' Pensions agency in Darlington needs to clean up its act. The Independent's education editor recently rang the body to inform it of the death of his wife. He received a written response – only it was addressed to his wife. "Thank you for informing us of your change of circumstances," the letter read. When challenged, the agency said that this kind of thing happens all the time. Apparently, it's the stock response to any update. Surely it should change its system to make such insensitivity history.

Today sees the climax of Oxford's effort to attract youngsters to the university: a murder-mystery break. Fifty 15-year-olds have been staying at Pembroke College and, as luck would have it, they found a dead body in the college quad on Tuesday. The only suspects have been some shady characters in college without an alibi, including the Master, his daughter and the cook. Ooh, I say! A treasure hunt in Oxford city centre requires the Year 10s to apply knowledge from seminars in chemistry, physiology and modern languages. The university says that it is trying to attract boys by injecting a bit of excitement into Oxbridge life. Whatever happened to just laying on a good spread?

Cambridge University is also dabbling in intrigue: "FBI visits Cambridge University to discuss beating language-exam cheats" says a press release. Golly! Rachel Lunde Brooks, an expert on forensic linguistic techniques for the FBI will address the Association of Language Testers in Europe conference, which begins today. She will explain how exam answers can be analysed by computer to tell whether a student has cheated. Dr Michael Milanovic, chief executive of Cambridge ESOL (English for Speakers of Other Languages), which hosts the conference, said: "At Cambridge ESOL, we are already using many of the techniques advocated by the FBI as part of our own security systems."

When Mick Brookes became thegeneral secretary of the National Association of Head Teachers, he spoke emotionally about having to give up his private passion: playing bass for his band The Rockets. "I just couldn't do the two," said Brookes. "It wasn't fair on the band." Well, guess what? In advance of May's NAHT conference in Liverpool, the bad-boy biker will reunite with his fellow band-members to play a gig in Cornwall.

Once a week, take a peek is a campaign to "beat the bug bullies" – head lice. It is the UK's first educational health campaign to use an SMS text "outbreak alert" system for parents, and to bring together schools, parents and local chemists to control head lice. More details at www.onceaweektakeapeek.com (NB not www.takea peek.com: it's not hard to guess what kinds of filth you'll find there – and I'm not talking about head lice.

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