Talking point

20th February 2004 at 00:00
Gareth Matthewson, president of the National Association of Head Teachers: "At last we have a long-term vision for 14 - 19 education. The Tomlinson Report provides an agenda that meets many of the criticisms of the current exam framework. It lays the ground for a careful, planned transition. It was scaremongering to suggest otherwise."

Phil Willis, Liberal Democrat education spokesman:

"These ideas will not work without the backing of the workforce. The new diploma will open up choices for young people. A personal mentor system must be created to help them make decisions.

"These changes will require a well thought-out programme of re-training the teaching profession. A study must be carried out to assess the impact on staffing. Teachers must be reassured that this will not throw the workforce agreement into disarray."

Ted Wragg, professor of education at Exeter university:

"It would be foolish to do something that didn't key into the European qualifications. But one thing we've really got to get right is testing. We can't have a completely permissive system. You'd have 11 and 16-year-olds together, or half the class would have done it and half wouldn't."

John Kerr, chief executive, Edexcel:

"For far too long we have focused on the academic pathway at the expense of a robust and recognised vocational equivalent. Retention and motivation have suffered, along with skills levels and productivity. The report presents a golden opportunity to correct the imbalance. There remains a lot of work to do on the detail."

Richard Wilson, business policy executive at the Institute of Directors:

"It is right to make literacy, numeracy and IT a focus but overly dramatic to get rid of or submerge existing exams into one over-arching qualification. It will be damaging to pupils' education and confusing to employers. Retaining GCSEs and A-levels is a better idea, and toughening them up for the students who don't find them demanding enough."

Digby Jones, director general of the CBI: "Firms will take some convincing that a major upheaval would not be a serious distraction from the main priorities. What matters is what young people are able to achieve. It is right to stretch the most able but we must never forget the unacceptable numbers who leave school without basic literacy and numeracy skills."

Dr Mary Bousted, general secretary of the Association of Teachers and Lecturers: "The need to merge vocational and academic qualifications is crucial. The English education system is good at catering for academic high-flyers but seems less capable of coping with those with vocational strengths. Some right-wingers may think the academic-vocational mix is a dumbing down of the education system but it provides students with a wide range of life skills that allows for different rates of development."

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