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Papers slow to back the bac

THERE was a lot of hostility to the idea of a baccalaureate-style diploma system for England when Estelle Morris first suggested it, at the height of the A-level regrading crisis last September.

Ten months on, little has changed. As Mike Tomlinson's taskforce on the future of 14 to 19 education published its first report, reaction from the press was mainly unfavourable.

The Daily Telegraph was perhaps the most predictable in its attack, lambasting the proposals as a "confidence trick". It said the plans mistakenly sought to achieve "parity of esteem" between vocational and academic courses, by lumping all of them together in one qualification so that it was difficult to tell how a student had done in a particular subject.

The Guardian was supportive, arguing for change because of the numbers of students dropping out of education at 16 and 17 and the complexity of a system embracing 3,000 vocational qualifications.

But the Daily Mirror warned of difficulties ahead, in building on plans that at the moment were "vague, open-ended and lack any real structure".

The Times, though welcoming the report as "a promising start", highlighted the risks of reforming a system whose last major change had produced last summer's fiasco. "The most important part of any change is not the theory but the application," the newspaper said.

Having set out the broad principles of reform, Mr Tomlinson's group now has just six months to come up with detailed proposals as to how it will work.

If the group was in any doubt, last week's reaction will have underlined just how important that work will be.

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