YOU always feel a little sorry for the children at primary schools when they are told they are in for some rather special visitors and in walks, not David Beckham or Jessica Ennis, but two guys in suits and ties they might have seen on Newsround. At St Joseph’s School in Holborn, the children learning Romeo and Juliet (…we didn’t get to grips with that til big school when I was a kid) broke off from their discussions about Montagues and Capulets on Wednesday morning to recite politely: Good morning Mister Clegg, good morning Mr Laws. The deputy prime minister was borrowing their classroom to do a BBC interview about the ‘pupil premium’ and the possibility of more tests for primary school aged children. Laws later cited the school as one of the “best schools in the country” in the Commons.
The Labour councillors locally might have been irritated at seeing top brass Lib Dem faces on parade at a school on their patch for which they feel dear affection (I’m not sure they were even told of the visit), but it was great to see St Joseph’s getting a spot to shine. The school has aced all its inspections, improved with each one and you could see from the devotion among the staff that they are getting things right. They’ve got a switched-on headteacher too in Helen Tyler, who used to be the head at Kentish Town Primary School. Of course, everybody is on their best behaviour when the ministerial BMWs are parked outside, but the teachers and perhaps even more importantly pupils seemed genuinely enthused by what’s going on in Macklin Street.
Like an Olympic soundtrack, the corridors were echoing with a school choir somewhere down the way covering Emeli Sande songs and outside every classroom on the corridor we were invited to wait in for the Clegg entourage of security and press people to arrive, next to the sponsor an Orangutan posters, was a copy of The Economist. Start them early. If they are digesting the debates in the pages of that magazine already, maybe the kids of St Joseph’s did realise who had gatecrashed their classroom for 20 minutes after all.