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EDITIONS
Thursday, 24 October, 2002, 11:57 GMT 12:57 UK
Tough challenges for new boss
Charles Clarke has a reputation as a tough-talker
Charles Clarke is getting down to business as the new education secretary at a time when the department is reeling from a series of crises.

He takes over a department rocked by the A-level grading fiasco and preparing to make politically difficult decisions on changes to the way students are funded at university.

One of his first priorities must be to restore confidence in the A-level system, severely dented by allegations that grades were lowered to prevent accusations that standards were falling.

Challenges ahead
Restore confidence in A-levels
Tackle teacher shortages
Student funding
Adult education
The A-level results of 2,000 students were upgraded, but many more students felt aggrieved and cheated.

The Tomlinson inquiry into the regrading has been criticised by many as a white wash, so Mr Clarke will have much work to do to convince critics that A-levels are still the gold standard by which pupils are judged.

Another issue which needs tackling is the shortage of classroom teachers.

On Friday, the education department is expected to come in for fresh criticism over its handling of the adult learning programme, the Individual Learning Accounts (ILAs) in a report from a spending watchdog.

Tough decisions need to be taken on student funding.

Student loans

In the next month or so, the government is expected to announce its long-awaited plans to shake-up the way students are funded at university.

At the last general election, Tony Blair was said to have been struck by the strength of feeling against the system of student loans.

And the government has been stung by reports that the present system is deterring poorer pupils from going on to university.

Ministers are committed to expanding the pool of people going into higher education to half of people under 30 by 2010.

Mr Clarke is no stranger to education. He spent a year in the department as a junior minister under David Blunkett.

And in the 1980s, he had a spell as a part-time maths lecturer at a college.

Even for someone with a reputation at Westminster for being "a bruiser," and a shrewd politician who enjoys confrontation, the job of education secretary must amount to a tough challenge.


Key Stories

Analysis

AUDIO VIDEO
 VOTE RESULTS
Was Estelle Morris right to resign?

Yes
 58.32% 

No
 41.68% 

16899 Votes Cast

Results are indicative and may not reflect public opinion

See also:

24 Oct 02 | Politics
Links to more Education stories are at the foot of the page.


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