· Who says that these new sector skills councils are not plugging a vital gap? Skillset, the SSC for the audiovisual industries, has come up with some startling facts about those who try to make a living from showing off on stage and screen. Roughly half the nation's performers earned less than £6,000 from their craft last year, and more than 70% of thesps were resting most of the time. Skillset is puffing this as major new research. No mocking, please. The diary always suspected that actors were overpaid, but didn't realise that so many of them were paid so much.

· Talking of performers: hire them quick before their fees shoot up. Who? The new double act: David Bell, new permanent sec at the DfES, and Mark Haysom, big potato at the Learning and Skills Council. The pair played a blinder when they appeared before the public accounts committee. Suave, fluent, funny and completely unscathed. The heavy mob didn't land a punch on either. Speaking afterwards at the stage door, Haysom revealed the secret of their success: bags of preparation. Perhaps it's time for Skillset to splash out on more research - how many successful actors rehearse?

· The only heckler to come close to scoring was Richard Bacon, Tory MP for South Norfolk, partly because he kept interrupting the two witnesses. He challenged Haysom to show why the new "brokers" that the LSC is recruiting to bring employers, colleges and training firms together were not going to be a costly dud. At the end of the session, the committee chairman, Edward Leigh, wished Bacon and his absent bride good luck for their forthcoming wedding. "And I didn't need a broker," the blushing groom quipped. "Do let her answer the question though," flashed Haysom.

· Fed up with winter and can't afford a Caribbean break? Why not grab yourself a copy of Time to Learn, City & Guilds' latest guide to short courses? Do hurry! There can't be many places left on "Make the most of your overlocker", and "A walking stick in a day" was no doubt sold out yonks ago. You might still find a place on "Stumpwork", which sounds as if it's for a specialist audience. And if you are one of those people who has problems identifying your furniture, later in February Dillington House in Somerset is offering the most useful three days you will ever spend: "Know your piano".



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