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Last Updated: Monday, 18 October, 2004, 11:05 GMT 12:05 UK
Tomlinson: 'a safe pair of hands'
Mike Tomlinson
Mr Tomlinson was 62 on Sunday

The man who came up with plans for exam reform for 14 to 19 year olds - which the government has accepted only in part - has won himself a reputation for being "the safest pair of hands in English education".

During a long career in the field, Sir Mike Tomlinson, 62, helped rebuild the education system in a war zone, rescued the notorious Ridings School in Halifax from chaos and took up the poisoned chalice as the chief inspector of schools in England.

His appointment as chief inspector brought a sigh of relief from the teaching profession and teaching unions, who had grown weary of the controversial tone of his predecessor, Chris Woodhead.

Sir Mike was initially appointed to the job for one year on 1 December 2000, but stayed on until April 2002 when the present chief inspector, David Bell, took over.

Teaching background

Born on 17 October, 1942, Michael John Tomlinson grew up and went to school in Rotherham, South Yorkshire, and in Bournemouth.

He studied chemistry at Durham University, then trained as a teacher.

He taught science in Nottinghamshire and Leicestershire between 1965 and 1977, before working as school/industry liaison officer for chemical firm ICI.

Sir Mike began his career in school inspections in 1978, becoming deputy director of inspections when Ofsted was set up in 1992.

After the first Gulf War, he was involved in helping restore the education system in Kuwait.

And in 1996, he led the team sent in to take over the running of the Ridings School, then known as "the worst school in Britain".

When the A-level results in 2002 turned into a crisis over allegations of "grade fixing", the then education secretary, Estelle Morris, approached him to investigate.

With the education system for 14 to 19 year olds clearly in need of reform, Sir Mike was again called upon to do the job.

He has combined this with chairing the non-profit trust which runs educational services in the London borough of Hackney.

He was made a CBE in 1997 and knighted this year.

A cricket fan, he lives with his wife in Buckinghamshire. They have two children.

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