nuns have received an apology from shadow education secretary Tristram Hunt after he appeared to sneer at their teaching credentials.
The Labour frontbencher was forced onto the defensive came under fire after he clashed with journalist Cristina Odone on a TV show as she praised the education she received.
Ms Odone insisted that some the “most inspiring” teachers she had were ones who had not been through teacher training colleges, prompting Mr Hunt to say “these were all nuns, weren’t they?”
Mr Hunt, who has opposed the use of unqualified teachers in classrooms, said: “I know about your religious schooling and there’s a difference, I think, between a state education system having qualified teachers in the classroom.”
Ms Odone said she had been to a Catholic school, a state school and a private school and “the best (teachers) did not come out of teacher training college”.
Following the exchanges on BBC’s Question Time Ms Odone hit out at Mr Hunt.
Ms Odone, a former editor of the Catholic Herald, told the publication: “Tristram Hunt’s comments on nuns last night were arrogant and ignorant.
“Why is it acceptable to denigrate anything Catholic but bleat tolerance about every other religion?
“To know he and Labour stand a chance at the next election makes me fear for the 7,000 brilliant faith schools in this country.”
Mr Hunt responded to the row by posting a message on Twitter saying: “On BBC QT I was trying to make a generalised point about the use of unqualified teachers in schools.
“I obviously meant no offence to nuns.”
Tory MPs seized on Mr Hunt’s Question Time remarks, with Conor Burns saying they were “absolutely shocking, sneering comments”.
Fellow Tory Nadine Dorries said it was an “arrogant, sneering, intolerant remark” and predicted it would damage Labour’s electoral chances.
“If Labour had any chance of holding onto its Catholic Glasgow seats, it lost it last night with Tristram Hunt’s remarks,” she said.