Diary

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The Independent Online
PARENTS of pupils at the Royal School, Bath, may be forgiven for being a little surprised by this month's upbeat end-of-term report from General Sir Robert Pascoe, the school's chairman of governors.

'Overall we have had an excellent term,' he says in a letter to parents, 'and it was marvellous to see so many of you with us on our Founder's Day in the presence of our President, Her Royal Highness The Duchess of Gloucester.'

In June, senior pupils at this pounds 10,000-a-year girls' boarding school - motto, Dominus sapientiam dat (The Lord gives wisdom) - refused to supervise younger girls' prep and meals after a housemistress, Jenne Davies, was sacked by nun-turned- headmistress Dr Judith McClure for failing to report that one of her 18- year-old charges spent a night outside the school without permission.

Sixth-formers were photographed by the press staging 'sit-in protests' in the school grounds, and a fortnight ago two other teachers, Dr Michael Palmer and Brendon Skelton, were dismissed for allegedly talking to journalists about Mrs Davies' case. They deny the allegation.

Newspaper reports suggesting that the school had been in a 'state of turmoil verging on anarchy', that there had been 'mass' pupil strikes and that staff relations with management had broken down, Sir Robert says, were simply not true. There had been a great many achievements by pupils and staff in the past term; for example, some national curriculum assessments had been successfully completed, the leavers' ball went ahead as planned and 'the Duchess of Gloucester made sure the term ended on a high note'.

During the summer holidays the science labs would be expanded, there had been an upsurge in prospective parents and the school was considering quotes for a roof over the swimming pool. The only press comment, in short, with which Sir Robert is happy to concur is that 'the Royal School is one of the top girls' schools in the country'.

AMONG the books presented to the Queen yesterday by the Book Trust for her Balmoral holiday: Delusions of Grandeur by John Rae, Peter Hennessy's Never Again and A Season in Purgatory by Dominick Dunne.

In the doldrums FOR THE first time in its 22-year history, the Whitbread Round The World Race may be without a British entrant. 'We need pounds 500,000 by 25 September, the start of the race,' says Matthew Humphries, skipper of Dolphin & Youth, the only British entry. 'The money is essential for new sails - if we don't get it, we can't go.'

Humphries has a special reason for wanting his crew to race. At 22, he will make history as the competition's youngest skipper. 'Four years ago, I deliberately turned down the chance to compete in the Olympics in favour of the Whitbread,' he says, 'because I saw it as a better career move.' The crew's proficiency was revealed only 10 days ago when they came third in the New York- Southampton transatlantic race. 'We were massively disadvantaged since our sails were old,' Humphries says. 'Give us some new ones and then let's see what we can do.'

GEOGRAPHICALLY challenged visitors to Tunbridge Wells have been wandering into the local tourist information office asking for directions to the cathedral.

The chips are down

COULD the glittering expansion of Harry Ramsden's, the Yorkshire- based fish and chip operator, be marred by a recent poor review? In Heathrow airport's free quarterly publication Egon Ronay Recommends, food writer Egon Ronay assesses the airport branch of the company, which now has eight restaurants, including an outlet in Hong Kong.

Marks are awarded on a scale of two (excellent) to zero (no comment). While Ramsden's gains two marks for its ambience, the service has slipped from two to one over the past three months and the food scores no marks at all. 'We taste it every 24 hours,' Ronay says. 'Suffice it is to say, that while their fish is excellent, they have a few other problems.'

THE Hampshire Ambulance Service band has applied to the Foundation for Sport and the Arts for a pounds 4,000 grant to purchase percussion instruments - mainly crash cymbals.

End of term and all is well

A DAY LIKE THIS

28 July 1850 Queen Victoria writes to the Prime Minister, Lord John Russell, complaining about Lord Palmerston, the Foreign Secretary: 'Lord John may be sure that the Queen fully admits the great difficulties in the way of the projected alteration, but she, on the other hand, feels the duty she owes to the country and to herself, not to allow a man in whom she can have no confidence, who has conducted himself in anything but a straightforward and proper manner to herself, to remain at the Foreign Office, and thereby to expose herself to insults from other nations, and the country to the constant risk of serious and alarming complications. There is no chance of Lord Palmerston reforming himself in his 67th year, and the Queen is personally convinced that at this moment he is secretly planning an armed Russian intervention in Schleswig, which may produce a renewal of revolutions in Germany, and possibly a general war.'

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