You never learn, do you? Even after having your pocket money stopped for calling Tim Brighouse, one of the most respected names in the education world, 'a nutter', you are still looking for a playground fight as a way to settle differences.

The National Union of Teachers refuses, for perfectly good reasons, to mark your tests, so you pay external markers to fill the breach. Then you threaten schools that fail to do as they are told with repeated inspections from government watchdogs.

Now, this really is a snarled promise to 'send your big mates around'. Whatever happened to the idea that inspections were about appraisal and improving teacher morale?

Now those inspectors are either a mild-mannered body of performance-enhancing advisers or a bully-boy intimidatory force. You can't have it both ways.

Since taking the reins at the Department for Education, you have chosen to confront just about everybody involved with education. Let's look at the cost to the country. The Parent's Charter was recently popped through the letterboxes of 20 million homes at a cost of pounds 3m.

You would argue that the cost was justified by making parents more aware of their rights. What you failed to take into account was that only 5 million homes have school-age children. I wonder how long it took the other 15 million homes to dispatch the Patten fanzine to the rubbish bin.

The cost of those tests, which you are clinging to as if they were the last marshmallows in the tuck shop, is pounds 13.6m.

Many assume that this is met by central government, but they are wrong. Only 60 per cent is paid by the Government; the rest has to be found by local authorities. So costs are passed down the line, resulting in fewer resources, fewer teachers and larger classes.

Your reluctance to give money to anything other than your own propaganda machine is causing cracks to show, John. Remember your wheeze about offloading more teacher training on to schools? Well, one group of teacher trainees at a south coast university were so disgusted at the lack of guidance from their tutors, while they were on teaching practice, that they refused to complete written assignments. They passed, of course. It was all brushed under the carpet.

At other schools people are beginning to notice how many staffrooms are filled with newly-qualified teachers, who are cheap, while their more experienced colleagues are put out to grass.

Yes, the cracks are beginning to show. I just hope you've kept some pocket money in reserve after the Brighouse hoo-hah.

There's a big Cabinet reshuffle on the way, and I hear Major Minor isn't terribly happy.


Fred Redwood

(Photograph omitted)