Who gets the royal request

Melanie Phillips, 53

Who is she? Former Guardian, Observer and Sunday Times journalist, she has written a column for the Daily Mail since 2001. Author of All must have prizes, a study of Britain's "educational and moral crisis".

What she says about education

* "Instead of striving for achievement, knowledge and the ability to reason, the education system is preoccupied with making children feel good about themselves."

* (On academic qualifications for non-academic pupils) "Their life chances are to be sacrificed on the altar of a spurious and spiteful egalitarianism."

* "Incoherence, small-mindedness and incompetence - along with a heavy dose of ideological malice - are unfortunately the hallmarks of Government education policy."

* "The most talented, who would once have relished a role in running the country, have not gone into public works but have chosen instead quick paths to fame or fortune."

Chris Woodhead, 58 Who is he? Professor of education, University of Buckingham. Chief inspector of schools, 1994-2000, and Sunday Times columnist.

What he says about education

* "Education is not applied child development."

* (As chief inspector in 1997) "There are 15,000 incompetent teachers."

* "Unlike the education establishment, we think that knowledge is more important than skills and teachers ought to teach not be 'facilitators' of children's learning."

* "We need less politics in the classroom. Indoctrination, whether into a particular political view - or what is equally noxious, and probably more common, a general political correctness - ought to have no place in education."

Bernice McCabe, 52

Who is she?

Head of North London collegiate independent girls' school since 1997.

Previously head of Chelmsford county high, in Essex. Taught at state schools in London and Bristol for 23 years. First private-school head asked to help set up pound;30 million city academy in Hackney, east London.

Scheme failed.

What she says about education

* "We would much rather the girls enrich themselves outside the curriculum rather than fast-tracking them through."

* "There's nothing I do on my own. I am entirely dependent on the people who work with me."

* "Nothing made me feel as positive about what I did and the difference I could make as being in that primary school in south Bristol."

James Sabben-Clare, 63, pictured right Who is he? Head of Winchester college, 1985-2000. Member of advisory board of Gems, the largest provider of private education in England.

What he says about education

* "Just performing well at A-level is not the best we can do for pupils in terms of gaining access to the best universities and jobs. What makes pupils better is what we do in addition to exams."

* "Parents accept that schools benefit from drawing on as wide a cross-section of the community as possible."

* "Exam success is incidental to the provision of an all-round education."

l"A-levels have changed over the years, whatever the Government may say about standards having been broadly maintained."

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