A Tory Education Minister refused to answer a simple times table question live on Good Morning Britain.
Schools minister Nick Gibb wouldn’t give the answer to a simple mathematical sum – suitable for eight and nine years olds.
His awkward side-step came as he announced that he was fully behind the new times tables test on trial in schools in England.
"What’s 8 x 9?" Jeremy Kyle asked him.
"I’m not going to get into this, I’ve learnt through bitter experience never to answer these questions on live television," the MP said.
"You don’t want to get into it because you’re worried you might get it wrong so why is it so important for an eight year old to do it if clearly you feel vulnerable doing it?" Kate Garraway asked.
"Well no eight year old or nine year old will be doing it on live television," he said, avoiding the question.
In case the Education Minister is wondering… the answer is 72.
Back in 2016, Gibb failed an exam question for 11-year-olds on live radio.
Nick Gibb put his foot in it delightfully while he was trying to defend under-fire SATs exams for primary schools.
Even Downing Street made fun of him – and all because he can’t tell his prepositions from his subordinating conjunctions.
BBC host Martha Kearney ambushed him with the words: "This is a question for slightly older children about the use of the word ‘after’.
"Let me give you this sentence:
‘I went to the cinema after I’d eaten my dinner’
"Is the word ‘after’ there being used as a subordinating conjunction or as a preposition ?"
Breezing through the answer, the cheery minister said: "Well it’s a preposition."
Openly laughing at him, Radio 4’s World at One host replied: "I don’t think it is!"
But he stuck haplessly to his guns, saying: "After is a preposition. It can be used in some contexts as a word that co-ordinates a sub-clause."
Eventually he gave in, saying: "Fine, but this isn’t about me!"
He then tried to claim he had not been taught grammar at primary school – at all – and therefore couldn’t have known.
He said: "This is about ensuring that future generations of children, unlike me incidentally who was not taught grammar at primary school.
"We need to make sure future generations are taught grammar properly so when they’re asked to write an essay, it isn’t a struggle."
The slip-up – which follows in a long tradition of education bosses being ambushed – prompted an outpouring of delight on social media.
Even Downing Street couldn’t help subtly ribbing the minister.
David Cameron ‘s official spokeswoman said: "The point about these tests is about driving up standards – making sure, as Schools Minister Nick Gibb was saying on the radio, that future generations are equipped with a better grasp of reading, writing and maths skills than perhaps generations that went before them."
Perhaps he should’ve taken lessons from his boss Nicky Morgan.
The Education Secretary refused point blank to answer times tables questions despite forcing them on all Year 6 pupils.
She said: "I know what it’s like with these interviews.
"I’ll be doing lots of interviews this morning and there will be one where I get it wrong and that’s the one that everyone’s going to be focused on."
Her stubbornness came after Labour schools minister Stephen Byers infamously tripped up when asked to work out 7×8 in 1998.
What’s the answer – and why?
Above is the Department for Education’s own marking scheme.
We at Mirror Towers can assure you we all definitely knew.
You see, a subordinating conjunction is a conjunction (a ‘joining word’) that introduces a subordinate clause (a separate part of a sentence).
A preposition is a word that declares the status of a noun or pronoun that comes straight after it.
‘The end of the war’ and ‘5pm in the evening’ are noun phrases, dependent on ‘war’ and ‘evening’, not whole clauses. That means ‘after’ is a preposition.
‘I had eaten my dinner’, however, is a full subordinate clause with a verb and a noun. So in this case, ‘after’ has a more complex role as a subordinating conjunction.
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* Good Morning Britain is on ITV, weekdays from 6am