Press hail Tony, saviour of A-levels

25th February 2005 at 00:00
How you viewed this week's White Paper depended partly on where you got your news. It would be "a bid to reduce the drop-out rate and end school snobbery," declared Sunday's Observer.

The Evening Standard meanwhile declared that Ruth Kelly would "unveil groundbreaking plans to effectively raise the school-leaving age from 16 to 18" and give more pupils a route into Oxbridge.

Others were less impressed. The Guardian feared "a pervasive sense of disappointment" among teachers. On Teachers' TV, audience favourite Sir Mike Tomlinson (applause) dismissed his arch-critic Professor Alan Smithers (boos).

But Sir Mike was less successful getting his four-stage diploma accepted by the Education Secretary who promised BBC Breakfast: "I'm going to transform the system." Education correspondents were angry that she briefed political editors rather than them, with results such as "I'll make GCSEs and A levels harder, says Kelly" (Sunday Telegraph).

Her critics thus gained added voice: "Scrap A-levels, says Cambridge" (The Times), "Heads angered by plan to retain A-levels" (The Independent).

Nevertheless, by the time Ms Kelly made her Commons statement on Wednesday, there were few surprises. "We won't transform education by abolishing what is good," she told MPs.

"A-levels to get tougher" cheered the Evening Standard, as BBC TV News reported "Big reforms for vocational education, but A-levels and GCSEs will stay." It showed two York college students who were unenthusiastic about the reforms while a disappointed head declared them "better than what we had before".

As Tony Blair was filmed changing nuts and bolts on a college visit, the Government will not have been too disappointed with this pre-election coverage.

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