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Last Updated: Tuesday, 28 October, 2003, 18:17 GMT
Abbott's son defends going private
Diane Abbott
Diane Abbott has been critical of colleagues' school choices
The son of left-wing Labour MP Diane Abbott has entered the fray over her decision to send him to private school and rejected claims she is a "hypocrite".

James Abbott, 12, rang a radio phone-in on Tuesday after it emerged his mother was planning to send him to the 10,000 a year City of London School, rather than a comprehensive.

Ms Abbott has previously been strongly critical of Labour colleagues Harriet Harman and Tony Blair over their choice of school for their children.

"She's not a hypocrite, she just put what I wanted first," James told LBC.

He added that he had wanted to go private rather than attend a local state school in Ms Abbott's Hackney constituency.

He said: "My mum didn't force me to go to private school, I took the test for the schools I wanted to go to, and I chose the school I wanted to go to.


"If I wanted to go to a state school then my mum would have let me go to a state school.

"It's a good school. The facilities, the resources and the teachers seem better than the state school.

"My mum said you can go to what school you want, she didn't say you have to go to a private school, or you have to go to a state school."

Ms Abbott - MP for Hackney North and Stoke Newington - became Britain's first black woman member in 1987.

She has so far refused to speak about her decision about her son's education, although her spokesman confirmed it was her son who called the phone-in.

Eamonn O'Kane, general secretary of the NASUWT teaching union, had already condemned the MPs decision saying she was condoning "apartheid" between state and private education in London.

'Doesn't look good'

He told BBC News Online: "There have been problems with education in Hackney but it's beginning to be turned around.

"It's regrettable that middle-class parents appear to be keen to leave the state education system.

"Given Diane's previous comments, and her strong support of state education, this is not going to look very good."

Ms Abbott once criticised Labour colleague - now solicitor general - Ms Harman, for sending her son to a selective school in Orpington, Kent.

Ms Abbott said: "She made the Labour Party look as if we do one thing and say another."

Good results

She also criticised the prime minister for sending his eldest son Euan to the London Oratory.

City of London school came 43rd out of 287 independent schools in this year's A-level table.

Earlier this year, the government set up the Learning Trust, a not-for-profit company to run schools in Hackney.

This summer, the borough reported that 36.8% of pupils had gained five grades A* to C at GCSE. The national average is 51%.

Mr O'Kane said: "Private schools have far more resources that those run by the state.

"Diane's action in all this will show up her earlier words in sharp terms."

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