Now Tories face an innumeracy crisis

19th March 2004 at 00:00
The Diary has become increasingly concerned about the level of basic skills among the Conservative party's education team. Less than two months ago, we were moved to dispatch a copy of the best-selling punctuation guide Eats, Shoots and Leaves to shadow education secretary Tim Yeo after punctuation breakdowns in a series of press releases. But the problem seems to be spreading to other Tories and is not confined to literacy.

This week, a press release from shadow education minister Mark Hoban, MP for Fareham, screamed about a "recruitment crisis in special schools".

Again, the literacy levels were sub-key stage 2 ( "This figures are very worrying") but the arithmetic caused more fundamental concern.

The opening sentence read: "According to a written parliamentary answer, 1,530 teachers in special schools, 12 per cent of the total number of teachers were 55 years old and over." This, we were invited to believe, was a very worrying figure.

So, the Diary got to thinking, how many teachers would be aged over 55 in the perfect world in which there was a relatively even distribution of teachers across the age range?

Even assuming all retired at 60 (which they don't), our sums came to about 11 per cent.

Mr Hoban goes on to complain that the "closure of special schools" was contributing to the alleged recruitment crisis, an argument that we could not get our head around. Tory press officer Tara Hamilton-Miller explained:

"At the moment, there is not a problem but as time goes by it appears there may be."

We're quaking in our boots.

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