The collective sigh of disappointment was almost audible in the education world.
For the last year, support has been steadily building for the "most radical reform of the qualifications system in half a century".
Sir Mike Tomlinson, the architect of the plan, proved highly effective in communicating his vision for a European-style over-arching diploma.
Instead of gaining GCSEs and A levels, the former chief inspector of schools proposed, students should be awarded diplomas at various levels.
Those taking vocational options would gain the same qualification, thereby ending the age-old schism between academic and non-academic subjects that has dogged education for generations.
The proposals were welcomed by most teachers and the college sector which would play a bigger role in implementing them.
Many within the business community applauded the elevation of the vocational and emphasis on core skills.
Even the Government seemed to buy the idea, with former Education Secretary Charles Clarke regularly declaring his support for the Tomlinson report. Then David Blunkett's affair of the heart forced him to resign as Home Secretary to be replaced by Mr Clarke.
Ruth Kelly took over the top job at the DfES - and everything changed.
Over the last couple of weeks, it has become increasingly apparent the new Education Secretary did not plan to adopt a key part of Sir Mike's proposal.
GCSEs and A levels would remain and be strengthened, and a new system of diplomas for work-related courses introduced. "Missed opportunity" was perhaps the most over-used phrase yesterday.
David Hart, general secretary of the National Association of Head Teachers, said: "We fear that the Government's White Paper is a huge missed opportunity. It has blatantly ducked out on the need to reform the A-level and GCSE system and to encourage breadths via an over-arching diploma."
Steve Sinnott, general secretary of the National Union of Teachers, said the White Paper looked like "a failure of nerve" by Ministers.
National Union of Students president Kat Fletcher said: "The Government have missed a momentous opportunity to address head-on the UK's poor staying-on rates."
Sir Mike himself criticised Ms Kelly's White Paper. "What is proposed yet again risks emphasising the distinction between the vocational and the academic," he said, while shadow Education Secretary Tim Collins claimed Ms Kelly had offered "precisely nothing".
That, of course, is not true. Vocational options are to be overhauled into 14 business-backed diplomas. Core skills will be made part of GCSEs and a new top grade introduced at A-level to distinguish the brightest candidates.
Business lobby group the CBI claimed Ms Kelly had listened to its demands.
Director general Sir Digby Jones said: "I'm delighted that A levels and GCSEs are here to stay. Firms know and under-stand A levels and GCSEs."
David Cragg, director of the Learning and Skills Council for the West Midlands, urged people not to get "fixated".
"The risk then would be that we lose sight of what opportunities the White Paper creates for us. The Government is very clear that is wants a high-quality vocational diploma." ..SUPL: