ONE of Eastleigh’s by-election hopefuls has sparked controversy after appearing to suggest state education was not good enough for her son.

Conservative candidate Maria Hutchings is reported as saying her 12-year-old wants to be cardio-respiratory surgeon, but that finding the right kind of education was “impossible in the state system”.

Her comments come despite two Eastleigh schools recently receiving glowing reports from Ofsted inspectors.

Thornden School has been ranked one of the top performing schools in the country and Wildern was rated as “outstanding” last year.

But while fighting to win the vacant seat of disgraced former Cabinet minister Chris Huhe, she is reported as saying: “William is very gifted which gives us another interesting challenge in finding the right sort of education for him – impossible in the state system. He wants to be a cardio-respiratory surgeon.”

Eastleigh Borough Council’s council leader, Lib Dem Keith House, has labeled the comments an “insult” to teachers.

He added: “Although it’s down to every parent to choose the right school for their child, it’s simply not true to say that the education in Eastleigh is not good enough for our children.

“Maria’s claim that it’s ‘impossible’ to get a good state education in Eastleigh is an insult to the teachers who work hard to give our children the best start, and to the parents who are glad to have such good schools that are part of the local community.”

A Conservative spokesman said: “Maria Hutchings wants all children to get the best possible education - that's why she's backing Michael Gove's reforms to bring back rigour to the state education system after 13 years of Labour. Maria has campaigned tirelessly to help parents of children with special educational needs get the best education for them.”