An exciting day yesterday as I spent my lunch hour welcoming party leader Nick Clegg and David Laws MP to Islington, to unveil the party’s new schools policy.
Council leader James Kempton chaired the group that produced the proposals, so it was great to have the launch in our borough. You can watch a section on the BBC Six O’Clock news here – it is about 20 minutes into the programme.
We toured New North Community School, hearing from pupils and teachers the difference that high levels of staff attention can make for all children; appropriate as reinvesting the money squandered on Gordon Brown’s baby bonds to cut primary school class sizes is at the heart of the proposals.
Mind you, it nearly didn’t happen. At the start of the week, with snow blocking the streets and local schools closed, hosting a VIP visit was the last thing on everyone’s mind. But by Thursday, New North was open and the unflappable head Mary McStay was delighted to welcome us to her school.
It’s an amazing place; a transforming school (the children’s performance scores have doubled in the time there), winner of the London Schools Environment Award, and with a strong civic sense. School governor Barbara Smith showed the photos from the school election. The children are fired up about democracy and looking forward to visiting Westminster this month (‘that’ll put them off’ said Nick drily).
New North is full of unexpected delights from the minature orchard to the roof garden to the Tracy Emin quilt.
And it’s as much a community centre as a school; there’s a children’s centre next door, plus New North run groups for parents, sewing groups for Somali women, parent and child maths lessons in Turkish, an outreach project on the Packington estate.
It was a really heartwarming visit on a cold day.
Talking of the cold, Nick also launched my fairer fuel bills petition (you can sign up here). Nick used his first ever Prime Minister’s Question Time to press Gordon Brown on the injustice of the poorest paying more for their fuel; and it’s great pleasure to have his backing on this campaign.