From Dream school to a real school making a real difference; and meeting Big Brother Lansley
Posted on 22 June 2011 | 3:06pm
Why did it have to be Piers Morgan who spotted the spelling error – I am OBSESSED about spelling – in my tweet from a school in Harrow? No, not that school in Harrow, but St Gregory’s Catholic Science College, a comprehensive not far from the well-known public school.
Piers was quick to point out that I had said the State schoolkids were ‘brigther, I’m sure’ when I meant ‘brighter’. Note to self – do not tweet without specs.
Now of course I have no way of knowing if they were brighter, not having been to Harrow School, and it was just a way of expressing what a polite, warm, welcoming and intelligent bunch the St Gregory’s kids were, and what a good time I had. So to those claiming class war is being launched – calm down dear, as the PM once said, and to Piers – love 15, as we say at this time of year.
Like some other London schools, the term ‘ethnic minorities’ has lost some of its meaning at St Gregory’s by dint of the fact that the majority – 82 per cent – are from ‘ethnic minorities,’ so it was certainly a diverse intake. You can usually tell the moment you walk into a school if it is well-led, well-run, and the students are in a learning environment. This one felt like all of those things. GCSE results have improved 23 per cent over the last three years, and the Department for Education has placed it among the top 100 most improving schools in the country.
The students asked some very good questions, on issues as varied as Iraq, US-UK relations, Libya, benefits, TB-GB, Princess Diana, journalism, marketing, and unsurprisingly, what I learned from my experience on Jamie’s Dream School. First, that teaching is tough. Second, that if you give young people support and opportunities, most will take them in the right way.
I thought the Dream School pupils who went to the education select committee yesterday gave a good account of themselves. They are all in their different ways picking up on their own talents and character, and finding ways to use them. What was good about today was the feeling of young people getting that feeling of support and opportunity in a school run for large numbers in a local community, not the few we were able to welcome to Dream School.
I was particularly chuffed to meet the girl who came up to me at the end and said she was determined to go into politics ‘for Labour.’
It has been something of a public services kind of day really, having earlier visited a relative in hospital after an operation. Fantastic treatment, amazing menu for lunch I have to say, and joy of joy a TV screen at the end of the bed where every few minutes Andrew Lansley came on to say welcome!
He should report back to his leader that some of the older patients in there were very angry indeed at the ‘you do the fighting, I do the talking’ remark about the military.