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With his relentless campaign against "unaccountable schools" and "failing teaching methods", Nick Gibb, the Conservative shadow schools minister, has risked annoying many teachers.

But at the party's conference in Birmingham last week, it emerged that there is a member of the profession whose loyal support the crusader for synthetic phonics can count on.

At fringe meetings at which Mr Gibb spoke was one Eileen Gibb, a teacher with 38 years' experience. She is also Mr Gibb's mother. Having spent most of her career in Leeds primaries, she is now retired and offers private reading tuition in North Yorkshire, using the Jolly Phonics scheme.

So, did she inspire her son to take up the synthetic phonics cause, The TES asked? "No, actually it was him that inspired me," she replied.

She is not the only teacher in the MP's family. His sister has taught in secondary schools. Perhaps more surprisingly, her husband lectures in teaching German at Leeds University's school of education. Surprising because, according to Mr Gibb, teacher trainers will be among the first targets in a Conservative government's war on the education establishment.

At another fringe meeting he said: "Progressive education is very dominant in this country and you don't get promoted or become a professor of education in a teacher-training college unless you are part of that orthodoxy."

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