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Tim gets caught at first slip

Attempts by Tim Yeo, the new Conservative education spokesman, to launch his own standards crusade, have got off to a shaky start.

He has been guilty of not one but two mistakes which would have his party's traditionalist supporters wringing their hands in dismay.

Those quick to criticise children's grammatical errors are unlikely to be any more forgiving towards a prospective education secretary who misplaces his apostrophes.

Yet the first two press releases from Mr Yeo to hit TES email inboxes last week both contained mistakes one would not expect of a former Charterhouse pupil.

The first release, attacking the beleaguered children's minister, refers to "Margaret Hodges' comments". The next release accuses the Government of rehashing the three "r's".

Mr Yeo follows in well-trodden footsteps in failing to master the basics of his brief. In 2001, Richard Caborn, the sports minister, was caught out by radio presenters who exposed his lack of sporting knowledge.

As schools minister, Stephen Byers was asked to multiply seven by eight and answered 54. He went on to reach the Cabinet.

But Graham Lane, Labour, education chair of the Local Government Association, warned Mr Yeo that he was unlikely to follow suit. "He won't make the Cabinet because the Conservatives won't win the election. Tim Yeo needs to go back to school," he said.

Others were more constructive. John Bangs, head of education at the National Union of Teachers, said: "He needs a good dose of the literacy strategy."

John Dunford, general secretary of the Secondary Heads Association, said Mr Yeo should go "back to basics". Mr Yeo resigned from John Major's government during the ill-fated back-to-basics campaign because of revelations of an extra-marital affair which resulted in a love child.

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