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EDITIONS
Thursday, 4 July, 2002, 19:21 GMT 20:21 UK
Blair children 'given private tuition'
Tony Blair and his family outside Number 10
Blair has been protective of his family's privacy
Tony Blair has come under fire following reports that his sons have been given private tuition from teachers at a top public school.


We would have expected the prime minister to lead by example

National Confederation of Parent Teacher Associations
Downing Street refused to comment on a Spectator magazine report saying Euan and Nicholas Blair have had their education at selective state school, the London Oratory, topped up with teaching at home.

The report comes a week after Commons Leader Robin Cook said Conservatives could not talk about state schools when its leader, Iain Duncan Smith, sent his son to Eton.

Liberal Democrat education spokesman Phil Willis said that if the story was true, the story showed hypocrisy and an "astonishing" lack of confidence in state education.

Downing Street says the Blair children's education is a private affair, and the Conservatives are not commenting on the story.

The row comes after Education Secretary Estelle Morris provoked the anger of teaching unions by saying there were some comprehensive schools she would not touch with a bargepole.

Parents 'left to worry'

Margaret Morrissey, of the National Confederation of Parent Teacher Associations, said parents would be disappointed to learn Mr Blair was having his children privately tutored.


The Blairs' children are entitled to carry out their schooling free from intrusion

Downing Street
She said the organisation "fully understood" why Mr Blair would want to do it.

"But, unfortunately, it leaves all the rest of us parents who aren't in a position to pay for private tuition, nor who can get their children into "a very good school" feeling very disappointed," she added.

After five years of promises to improve education, Mr Blair still had to pay for private tuition, she added, even though his children went to one of the best state schools.

"Where the hell does that leave the rest of us? It just leaves us to worry," Mrs Morrissey said.

"We would have expected the prime minister to lead by example but equal opportunities seem to have gone out of the window," she added.

'A matter for the family'

The Spectator says one or more young teachers from Westminster School have been helping the Blair boys with A-level history and other subjects.

Phil Willis
Willis: 'Astonishing lack of confidence'
Mr Blair's official spokesman said: "We have no comment to make about the story whatsoever."

He pointed to the Downing Street statement on the issue included in the magazine article.

"The Blairs' children are entitled to carry out their schooling free from intrusion, and any issues relating to their education are entirely a matter for the family," said the statement.

The spokesman said the prime minister valued the sensitivity with which most editors had treated the children's privacy.

Downing Street recently became embroiled in a fierce row with the Spectator over claims Number 10 staff had tried to get Mr Blair a bigger role in the Queen's Mother's funeral.

A story was taken to the Press Complaints Commission (PCC) but later dropped by Downing Street.

Mr Blair's spokesman said Downing Street was not taking the latest story to the PCC.

He said Mr Cook's comments about Mr Duncan Smith's choice of Eton were made in the context of a Commons question time exchange.

Mr Cook was also unrepentant.

"I said what I said. I don't take it back," he said on Thursday.

Hypocrisy claim

Lib Dem MP Phil Willis said: "If this report (in the Spectator) is true, the prime minister's actions display an astonishing lack of confidence in the state education system.

"It is now clear why the Prime Minister is seeking to end the comprehensive ideal and create a multi-tiered education system.

"That way Labour's elite can simply buy in the private sector for their own children.

"The leader of the House condemned Iain Duncan Smith for sending his children to Eton.

"But with typical New Labour hypocrisy the Prime Minister does not have the courage to do the same."

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
The BBC's Guto Harri
"Downing Street said questions about such matters are obtrusive"
See also:

24 Jun 02 | UK Education
22 May 02 | UK Politics
16 Jul 99 | UK Education
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