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‘My heart is with people who are disadvantaged in education and life’

As she departs from her role after seven years as chief executive of Ucas, Mary Curnock Cook tells Stephen Exley about Tony Blair’s ‘wobble’ over scrapping A levels, her support for proposals to introduce T levels and her ‘completely demented’ time leading the government’s brief for 14-19 education

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During her seven years at the helm of Ucas, Mary Curnock Cook has become indelibly associated with the privileged world of academia. But in one of her final interviews as she leaves the admissions body, a question about her little-known voluntary role as trustee of the National Star Foundation, which runs the national specialist college for young people with learning difficulties and physical disabilities, reveals a far broader perspective on education.

“I think you’re the first person in an interview who’s asked about that,” she says. “[The National Star College is] just down the road from us ...

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