12th September 2008 at 01:00

As one of Britain's most thought-provoking education academics, Alison Wolf is used to speaking at conferences and to being introduced respectfully as an expert in her field. Indeed, she is even the incumbent in the rather grand role of Sir Roy Griffiths professor of public sector management at King's College London.

It seems safe to say, though, that she will never have received quite the build-up to a talk that she got last week at a recent panel discussion in front of an invited audience of young people in central London.

"Our next speaker is a very special lady," said student Michael Jones, compere for the afternoon. He is now on the Edge Learner Forum, a student- led project which encourages young people to get involved in vocational and practical education schemes.

"We have a professor in the house," he ventured. "Her name is Alison Wolf. Can you say that at the front?"

The young audience responded enthusiastically by shouting back her name and cheering.

"Can you repeat that at the back?" Ditto.

The object of this admiration looked suitably bashful as cheers rang out from the 100-strong crowd.

That's the problem with the kids of today; no respec'.

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