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Dear diary: not much to report

Teachers fed up with showing packs of publicity-seeking politicians around their schools can breathe slightly more easily.

Ruth Kelly, the Education Secretary, has no plans to visit any more schools this year according to her official diary.

The lack of visits was revealed by the Government in answer to a question from the Liberal Democrats, who believe it lends weight to rumours that the minister will not remain long in her post.

Other ministers in her department have an average of 12 educational visits planned for the first six months of 2005.

But the secretary of state lists just one, a trip she made to Montgomery high school in Blackpool earlier this month.

Phil Willis, Liberal Democrat education spokesman, said the lack of planned trips was "highly significant" and added credibility to speculation that Ms Kelly will be moved in a reshuffle after the general election.

"Ruth Kelly is in a holding role rather than there for the long-term," he said. "I regret that because she's a significant talent and it is sad when ministers are used as political pawns."

Ms Kelly's diary could simply be empty because she only started the job in December. However, Derek Twigg, appointed education junior minister the day after Ms Kelly, had five visits listed.

The education minister with the busiest diary was Kim Howells with 23 visits, followed by Margaret Hodge with 20, Stephen Twigg with 11, Lord Filkin with 10 and Ivan Lewis with four.

The list does not include visits planned on Labour party business, such as Ms Kelly's trip with the Prime Minister to Myton School in Warwickshire last week. Sources close to Ms Kelly dismissed the speculation as "utter nonsense" and said the minister had decided against taking up all of her predecessor Charles Clarke's appointments to give her more time to read up on her brief.

A Department for Education and Skills spokesman said: "The minister has conducted a number of school visits and will continue to do so in the future."

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