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Modern Tate

NICK Tate is clearly already easing himself into his new job as head of Winchester College. Serving out his notice as Qualifications and Curriculum Authority chief, he surely had his future employers in mind when he addressed a conference in Brighton last week.

"Spurious positive discrimination" was his target - namely, attempts to boost state school numbers at Oxbridge etc which it is feared could, sob, sob, squeeze out Winchester boys and their ilk from their birthright.

It was, of course, "vital to enhance access", Nick conceded. But people must get in "on merit an attainment". Well, naturally.

This just days before David Blunkett - still his master - announced a new drive to widen access. The DFEE has probably stopped trying to keep Nick on-message - unlike the early days when, he told Brighton, his wrists were slapped for suggesting GCSEs be scrapped.

He can suggest it all he likes in future: Winchester has already dropped them in several subjects. Meanwhile, his successor - long-time GCSE abolitionist David Hargreaves - can take up the cause. "No doubt the DFEE has already had a word in his ear," muses Nick Tate.

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