Education Diary: The precious reminiscences of octogenarians

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The Independent Online

How precious are the reminiscences of octogenarians. At a recent press lunch, ex-general secretary of the NUT, Fred Jarvis, 83, was remembering the good old days. Back in 1963, the union invited the Conservative PM Harold Macmillan to talk at an NUT conference (those were the days when secretaries of state, prime ministers even, addressed NUT gatherings). But it happened to be the day that the Profumo scandal broke. Jarvis was fretting all day about how to greet Super Mac. Should he say "how is your day going?" or "have you had a good day?" Jarvis eventually opted for the simple, "Hello Mr Macmillan. How are you?" To which the prime minister replied, "Get me a Scotch."

* The iconoclast Professor Ted Wragg will be remembered by two of his old schools next week. The noted educationist and writer, who died in 2005, was a pupil in the 1940s and 1950s at Hunter's Bar infant and junior schools and King Edward VII School – all in Sheffield – before going on to take a double first in languages from Durham and entering teaching. Wragg's widow, Judith, and Fred Jarvis will visit the schools, along with Sophie Byatt, managing director of the Teaching Awards. The visitors will present a framed photograph of Wragg from the Ted Wragg Memorial Fund to the schools and talk to pupils. Since Wragg's death, the fund has raised money to support 16- to 23-year-olds who need financial help to study or train in Sheffield. Some £5,000 has been given in small grants to some of the poorest districts in the city.

* A recent Ofsted report on language teaching in England and Wales highlighted the need for schools to employ teachers who are native speakers of languages such as Gujarati and Mandarin. The same report disclosed the number of pupils taking foreign languages at GCSE. Arabic has 1,698 entries, Bengali 1,602. Further down the page is Irish with... one entry. This one candidate came from the state sector. What must it have taken to get him or her through the course? One person to write the syllabus and one person to teach it; one person to invigilate the exam and one to mark it. Four to one: that's a ratio most state schools would die for!

* Here's a speaker who really knows about the building bricks of education. The European Society for Engineering Education Conference in Aalborg, Denmark, will feature Robert Rasmussen of Robert Rasmussen and Associates, an independent consultancy group specialising in Lego Serious Play. This is a method of using Lego in the boardroom to open your mind to different ways of thinking. Rasmussen will be talking about, "Improving Education Through Engineering with Lego Mindstorms". The event takes place on 2-5 July.

* So it's official. Parents who are reluctant to read a bedtime story now know where to turn in their hour of need. The Best Children's Book of All Time have been revealed as C.S. Lewis's The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. The classic allegory beat modern favourites such as Harry Potter and The Gruffalo (above). The poll of 4,000 people was conducted by the charity Booktrust to support its Bookstart initiative, which provides children with free books. The survey also revealed that 45 per cent of parents read their children a bedtime story. Well! You're more diligent than we thought.