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And Mr Lane's understandable paranoia was not eased by the letters page of his local paper, The Newham Recorder. Alongside missives concerning the flaking bark of plane trees and flyposting by militant Islamic fundamentalists, was a long letter from a reader outlining the Government's plans for education this coming autumn.

Poetically, it began: "As children return to school facing fresh challenges, and others start school for the first time, parents will be eagerly following their progress..." The author? A Mrs Gillian Shephard.

Since Mr Lane's day job is as Newham's education chair, certain questions were asked about this letter. But it all turns out to be perfectly innocent: according to the DFEE, the paper had used an article written by Mrs S for regional papers on the letters page for some reason best known to itself. So that's all right, then.

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