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Wednesday, 23 October, 2002, 21:16 GMT 22:16 UK
Timeline: Estelle Morris
Estelle Morris
Estelle Morris became education secretary last summer
As education secretary, Estelle Morris had been regarded as a guiding light in new Labour and a favourite of Tony Blair.

In 2002, after wrestling the biggest budget increase for education in a generation from the chancellor, she became embroiled in the fiasco surrounding the marking of A-level papers and presided over a chaotic start to the new term.

3 September: Thousands of pupils in England and Wales are turned away on the first day of the new term because their teachers have not been cleared by the Criminal Records Bureau.

About 7,000 teachers are caught up in a backlog leaving hundreds of schools affected and having to turn pupils away.

4 September: The education secretary steps in and over-rides the education department's insistence that all checks be carried out before staff start work.

Unchecked teachers can start in school as long as they are supervised.

"I apologise for any part I had in bringing this about," she says.

6 September: The home secretary sends in a team of experts to the troubled Criminal Records Bureau.

David Blunkett says it is designed to "put it on the road to recovery", not conduct an inquest.

Ms Morris says: "I'm an angry customer."

15 September: The exams watchdog confirms it is investigating persistent complaints from head teachers that A-level results were "fixed" to stop grades ballooning.

"However, we believe that the awarding process is sound," says the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority (QCA).

17 September: Sir William Stubbs, chairman of the QCA, assures parents and pupils he did not come under political pressure to control A-level grades.

19 September: Sir William confirms to the BBC "something untoward" has happened with A-level grades in some schools.

Ms Morris confirms an investigation into the work of one of the three examining boards under suspicion.

20 September: Estelle Morris is under pressure to resign. Tory leader Iain Duncan Smith says whoever is responsible for the A-level fiasco "should pay with their own future".

27 September: Mike Tomlinson publishes his report into the A-level debacle, which finds the marking procedure was an "accident waiting to happen".

He says there was a "lack of common understanding among those involved in teaching and examining" the courses.

Ms Morris rejects calls for her resignation.

"It wasn't me. It wasn't my ministers, it wasn't my department," she says.

1 October: School league tables become the latest casualty of the A-level chaos. The results are postponed, probably until 2003.

12 October: The education secretary is criticised for "meddling" in the case of two boys expelled from school for sending death threats to a teacher.

Surrey County Council says she "acted beyond her powers" and made it "almost impossible" to resolve the situation.

15 October: Ms Morris speaks to the House of Commons and promises to restore confidence in the exam system after the review finds 1,220 A-level grades were incorrect.

Conservative education spokesman Damian Green calls her handling of the situation "staggeringly inept".

Some head teachers are still unhappy with the results.

Students and parents flood BBC News Online with angry e-mails claiming the re-marking was a whitewash.

16 October: Conservative leader Iain Duncan Smith claims no one now knows if A-level results are "worth the paper they are written on".

The Tories accuse Ms Morris of using "cheap" tactics to deflect attention from her "incompetent" handling of the A-level crisis.

22 October: Renewed calls for the education minister to resign over an apparent failure to honour her own promise - to resign if targets were missed.

Ms Morris rejects the calls.

23 October: Ms Morris resigns saying the job is too important to have "second best". Tony Blair accepts her resignation "with regret".

The National Association of Head Teachers calls it a "tragedy".

Was Estelle Morris right to resign?



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See also:

19 Sep 02 | Education
22 Oct 02 | Politics
22 Oct 02 | Education

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