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Thursday, 3 October, 2002, 10:44 GMT 11:44 UK
Blair 'sorry' over exams fiasco
Blair and Morris during a school visit
The prime minister has said the government is "extremely sorry" for the students caught up in this year's A-level grading fiasco.

Pressed on the issue at a news conference, Tony Blair said: "Of course I'm sorry, I'm not just sorry for those students that have been put in this position, I'm sorry that this situation has ever arisen."

He acknowledged that the full extent of the problem still was not known, with the exam boards going through a two-stage process of working out which units need to be re-graded.

In the televised news conference at the Labour Party conference in Blackpool, he said he thought some of the figures being bandied about for the numbers who were affected were exaggerated.

"As we know the full extent of the problem we will know exactly what we can do about it.

"I suspect from the information that Mike Tomlinson has already put out that this is a situation we will be able to deal with.

"But exactly how we are going to deal with it, I'm afraid we will have to wait until he puts out his report."

The shadow education secretary, Damian Green, said: "For Tony Blair to try and downplay the problem without even knowing the extent of the fiasco shows the complete lack of sensitivity shown to the thousands of young people angry and distressed by his government's incompetence."

Sacked

Mr Tomlinson - the former chief inspector of England's schools - is investigating the debacle at the behest of the Education Secretary, Estelle Morris.

In his interim report last week he said exam boards had, in varying degrees, felt under pressure from the QCA exam watchdog to hold down this year's grades to the level of last year's.

Ms Morris sacked the chairman of the QCA, Sir William Stubbs.

In a further report on Wednesday, Mr Tomlinson explained how he wanted the exam boards to go about resolving the issue.

He said that at least 104 exam units - written papers, coursework and orals - were affected, mostly with the Oxford, Cambridge and RSA Examinations (OCR) board.

These covered 26 subjects.

He is due to report again by November on the wider issue of A-level standards.

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The alleged A-level grades manipulation

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