It took 18 months, 139 committee and sub-committee members, an eight-strong secretariat, 650 expert interviewees at home and abroad, tens of thousands of pages of reports and nearly 500 hours of meetings.
But the future of thousands of 14 to 19-year-olds rested mainly in the hands of 15 figures from the worlds of education, business and government.
These formed the main working group under Mike Tomlinson, a former teacher who built a reputation for forging links with industry before becoming head of the Office for Standards in Education from 2000 to 2002.
Members were drawn from business, universities, the exam boards, further education colleges, and a private school.
Simon Culmer, operations director of Cisco Systems, the technology firm, and Ian Ferguson, chairman of communications company Data Connection, represented business.
Giving the examiner's perspective was Kathleen Tattersall, a former director general of the Assessment and Qualifications Alliance.
David Melville, vice-chancellor of Kent university, and David Eastwood, vice-chancellor of the University of East Anglia, represented the universities.
They were joined by education experts David Raffe, a professor at Edinburgh university and Ken Spours, from London university's institute of education, author of A British Baccalaureate.
John Berkeley, who is a senior fellow at Warwick university and an expert on vocational qualifications, completed the contribution of academia.
Carolyn Hyman, former chief executive of the Foyer Foundation, a charity for young homeless people, and Colin Hilton, executive director for education at Liverpool city council, broadened the group's experience.
Three college principals were also on the working group: Helen Gilchrist from Bury college, John Guy from Farnborough sixth-form college, and Jennifer Slater from Northallerton college.
Edward Gould, master of the pound;16,000-a-year Marlborough college in Wiltshire, was also on the main working group, but there were no representatives from state schools.