Mike Baker

5th October 2012 at 01:00
The former BBC education correspondent has died of cancer at the age of 55

The former BBC education correspondent Mike Baker died last month at the age of 55. The award-winning journalist, who retired from the BBC in 2007 to pursue a freelance career, had written about his struggle with lung cancer in a widely read and candid blog.

Over the past five years, he wrote columns for The Guardian, BBC online and TES, chaired education conferences and unravelled the classroom implications of government policies on the Teachers TV channel.

His death prompted tributes from senior figures in the education world. Baroness Morris, the former Labour education secretary, described his "perceptive and wise" coverage of changes in education. "There are few better examples of all that is good in public service broadcasting and journalism," she said.

Universities minister David Willetts described him as "knowledgeable, independent, fair-minded and a master at conveying complicated details to a mass audience. Most of all, he never lost sight of how education can liberate individuals to realise their full potential."

In his 27 years at the BBC, he became one of the most respected voices in the education field, recognised as a well-informed and insightful commentator.

Whether reporting from teachers' conferences or on policy announcements from Downing Street, he could be relied upon to translate the jargon and interpret the implications.

Education ministers were ready to admit that sometimes he knew more about their policies than they did.

Baroness Morris, education secretary under Tony Blair, said: "I recall on one occasion reading Mike's analysis about one of our policies which we were getting a bit confused and commenting that he had made sense of it all for me."

Born in Colchester, Essex, he attended Colchester Royal Grammar and gained a degree in English from Emmanuel College, Cambridge, in 1979. In 1980 he joined the BBC as a news trainee and was a political correspondent from 1983 until he was appointed education correspondent in 1989, the year when the first national curriculum was introduced into English schools.

Over the next two decades, education climbed the political and news agenda and Mike Baker's was the voice that documented the careers of numerous education secretaries, the introduction of national tests and league tables in England, the New Labour promise to prioritise "education, education, education", the introduction of university tuition fees, and much more.

He was UK education journalist of the year in 2002 and 2008, and a visiting professor at the Institute of Education, University of London.

In a media world sometimes characterised by its "dog eat dog" attitudes, he stood out as a decent and fundamentally kind person, encouraging others and quick to recognise others' successes.

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