Education chief fails spelling test

Share this article

A SENIOR education leader in charge of efforts to improve children's literacy has been left embarrassed after he sent out a letter containing glaring spelling mistakes.

As executive member for education at City of Edinburgh Council, the Rev Ewan Aitken is the public face of the capital's drive to improve the standards of reading and writing among pupils in the city.

But in an invitation to residents in his Restalrig ward to attend a Christmas tree lighting ceremony, Mr Aitken failed to lead by example, as he misspelled the words "fourth" and "courtesy".

The letter, which was signed by Mr Aitken and sent to around 300 households, says: "I write to invite you to the forth annual Restalrig Community Christmas Tree Lighting event."

It then goes on to say: "Some suitable singing and a short blessing of the tree and then refreshments will be served curtesy of the playgroup in Craigentinny Community Centre."

It is understood Mr Aitken dictated the letter to a member of staff and then read and signed it before it was posted.

Mr Aitken has been Edinburgh's education leader for five and a half years. He is also education spokesman for COSLA, the local authority umbrella body.

Last night he put his spelling mistakes down to human error and insisted it had no bearing on his capacity to do his job.

He said: "Here is hard evidence that I am a human being like everyone else. I apologise if this shows me in a bad light.

"What is really important is that we are having a really big event in Restalrig, not whether I can spell or not."

He added: "It should not have happened and we will try to do better next time, but it is human error.

"At least I am trying to improve other people's spelling, even if mine is not getting any better."

In 2003, Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Education (HMI) praised the overall quality of schools in Edinburgh, although literacy was identified as an area in which the council could do better.

Last summer, another HMI report found that basic reading and writing skills were letting down the capital's overall educational record.

At the time, Mr Aitken made clear his determination to see an improvement.

He said then: "We need to make sure that we are doing everything we can to make the improvements in literacy and numeracy."

City of Edinburgh Council has been embarrassed by other spelling mistakes in recent years.

Two years ago, thousands of council Christmas cards had to be replaced because of spelling errors.

And the latest incident comes just months after council leaders were forced to apologise to the Olympic gold medallist Allan Wells for spelling his first name with one "l" instead of two and the word "achievement" missing an "e".