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We must win this battle

It will be a tragedy if the Government comes through with a half-hearted response to Tomlinson focusing solely on the vocational and introducing a vocational diploma. We must tackle head-on the structural mess that is our secondary education system. It is not the case that the academic stream in secondary is fine while the vocational route is desperately weak.

Both the academic and vocational strands of English secondary education are in urgent need of reform and here we have the chance of a new order that will give children with a diverse range of talents the opportunity to develop them to the full.

It is perfectly acceptable to retain the comfort blanket of the A-level as part of a wider diploma. But it is essential that, in the time-frame envisaged by Mike Tomlinson, they are replaced in fact if not in name. As Tony Blair has said, we are at our best when we are at our boldest. The Government showed it had the stomach for brave decisions and a hard fight over top-up fees and thank God for the future of our universities that we won that battle.

The battle over Tomlinson is a more important battle; crucially it is a fight that everyone from the independent sector through to the teaching unions knows we must win.

Barry Sheerman MP chairs the education and skills select committee

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