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Miliband beats off the opposition

2002 was the year of The Project, the BBC drama series about New Labour apparatchiks that promised more than it delivered. So how did the education world measure up? We proudly announce the winners of the TES Spinwatch Awards 2002

Early in the year there was much talk of one big teaching union. This led Eamonn O'Kane the affable new general secretary of the National Association of Schoolmasters Union of Women Teachers to overdo his enthusiasm for union merger. Alas, he wins our Worst Union Spinner award because his premature embrace of the National Union of Teachers caused a backlash among his own activists making unity harder to achieve. Would his predecessor Nigel de Gruchy have made such a mistake?

Best Union Spinner award goes to the Headmasters' and Headmistresses'

Conference for its claim that tens of thousands of youngsters had lost out as a result of tough grading of this year's A-levels. Their complaints heralded an inquiry, a ministerial resignation and important reforms. But in the event the number of students affected was minimal.

But Education Secretary Estelle Morris's troubles began earlier. Thus, Worst Government Spinner has to go to Department for Education and Skills officials who tightened Criminal Records Bureau teacher checks days before the new school year started, fearing a media backlash following the Soham murders. Their initiative made the front page of The Times. But schools faced chaos with thousands of teachers unchecked, forcing Ms Morris into a U-turn.

Former qualifications chief Sir William Stubbs wins the Unwisest Whitehall Spinner award for commandeering the BBC's 10pm news to launch a bizarre attack on Ms Morris days before Mike Tomlinson's first report on the crisis. Sir William lost his job but got a new taste for TV interviews.

Non-spinner of the Year award goes to former Education Secretary Estelle Morris for her interview with BBC News 24 after her resignation, where she offered a harsh critique of her own strengths and weaknesses. Papers from the Mirror to the Mail outbid each other praising her candour.

And a special Quiet Man Survival award goes to Ron McLone, chief executive of the OCR exam board, whose grade boundary changes started the A-level rumpus and who is keeping a low profile.

But despite a strong start by new education secretary Charles Clarke, the 2002 Spinner of the Year is new school standards minister David Miliband who wasted no time after his summer appointment garnering admiring profiles and flattering TV pictures. Among other roles, he was the A-levels minister before the autumn crisis. He still is.

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