Chalk Talk: Worried about the English Baccalaureate? You're not alone

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The Independent Online

There are some who believe cynically that to push a cigarette paper between the thoughts of chief exams regulator Glenys Stacey and Education Secretary Michael Gove, you would have to be very lucky. They should have been at the conference of the Headmasters' and Headmistresses' Conference (HMC) last week.

Dr Antony Seldon, high master of Wellington College, who was chairing a debate, asked for a show of hands from those who were concerned about the timetable for the introduction of Mr Gove's new English Baccalaureate. Not many people noticed at the time but Ms Stacey, Ofqual's chief executive, put hers up.

She made it clear in her speech that Ofqual would be on the lookout for any sign that a rush to implement the new reforms would jeopardise standards. I suggest we watch this space from now on.

While on the subject of the HMC, which represents most of the top public schools, there was also the tale of the reluctant civil servant. Elizabeth Sidwell, who has the role of Schools Commissioner, based in the DfE's luxurious Sanctuary Buildings, admitted she hated life in the office,.

Ms Sidwell, formerly a successful headteacher at Haberdashers' Aske's Hatcham College in south London, confessed: "I don't like going there – I try and get out and I say I'm going out at least two days a week. I try and get out of Sanctuary Buildings as much as possible." Describing her job, she said: "I'm a director in the civil service (which means people listen to me). I only found out [that she was a director] months after I started and I'm very proud of it."

She is a passionate defender of non-selective schools and one might tentatively suggest that – if she could bear to spend some more time in the office – she might pass on more of this passion to some of her colleagues.