The French ambassador presenting the LabelFrancEducation certificate to the school

My children’s school, Shaftesbury Park (where I’m also lucky enough to be chair of governors), has become the first school in the country to get LabelFrancEducation accreditation from the French ministry of education. The certificate was formally handed over by the French Ambassador, His Excellency Jean-Pierre Jouyet in a short ceremony this week.

The French promotion of their language is, obviously, a diplomatic tool. And a very good one. Listening to the ambassador during the presentation I realised that, despite Brexit1 and my execrable French, I felt a vicarious membership of a wider community. It also highlighted to me that, aside from the technical and economic difficulties that will leave us poorer after Brexit, we will also be culturally impoverished by cutting ourselves off from global interchange. Theresa May seems determined that whatever the cost of Brexit we will stop those foreign types from coming here and making our country better.

That is a shame. The international perspective is a big part of the school (it also got its International School Award accreditation from the British Council recently) it offers a unique curriculum mix. The school uses the international primary curriculum to encourage children to not just learn facts, but to make connections and really think about the world. It also offers the enterprise approach which teaches them the ‘soft skills’ they will carry with them for their life. One bit of research showed that children given just a few years training in those skills at a young age were still outperforming their peers on pretty much every measure when they were forty2.

But if the curriculum is teaching them to think about their world and the enterprise approach is teaching how they can change their world then French is the gateway that enlarges their world. I know from taking my own children abroad how much it has improved their confidence and there’s something rather nice knowing that even at a young age they don’t see arbitrary borders or different languages as barriers.

There’s also something intrinsically hopeful in it. I think the Brexit vote was the result of the EU getting the blame for long-term failings of English (and I think primarily English) national and local government and I am not sure we will find any way out but by paying the consequences of that vote. But if we can create a skilled, thoughtful and outward-looking generation perhaps in the future we will rectify both those failings and our current insular trajectory.

    1. The ambassador expressed some frustration about the whole process in comments he addressed to Marsha de Cordova, although I fear she is Corbyn before country on this one.
    2. Heckman et al, The American Economic Review vol. 103(6), pp. 2052-2086

Battersea Power Station model Now that conference season is over things start getting back into full swing. A few of the bits and pieces I’ve not mentioned this week are:

School governors
One of the privileges I’ve had as a councillor is being able to serve as a school governor in three of the ward’s schools. I’m currently a governor at Shaftesbury Park – and attended the full governors meeting on Wednesday.

The council nominates people to each governing body and there are usually some vacancies somewhere as people come and go from Wandsworth. It can be an incredibly rewarding experience and need not take up much time (as little as a couple of evenings per term). If you think you might be interested in being a school governor you can find out more from the school governor section of the council’s website.

NLA event
Last night I was promoting Wandsworth at a New London Architecture ‘Our Patch’ night. It was a great opportunity to talk about how great Wandsworth is and what it has to offer (I will try to create a YouTube version of my short pitch).

Their building in Store Street has a model of central London amongst its displays and is well worth a visit, even if the Power Station has, sadly lost two of its chimneys.

Black History Month
And finally, I popped into a Black History Month (links to a PDF) event at Battersea Library this morning entitled ‘arrivals’.

Given my previous post (and talk) on why Wandsworth is great it was fascinating to hear the stories on how and why people came to Wandsworth. Wandsworth has a long and proud history of welcoming immigrant communities and listening to the stories of how people came here and become part of the wider community brought home how much better we are for being a diverse, but still cohesive, community.

I’m a little late in picking up on this, but John Burns School, situated in the north-eastern corner of the ward, has been named as one of the best in the country by Ofsted.

Ofsted included the school in its report ‘Twenty Outstanding Primary Schools’ which “showcases 20 primary schools in very challenging circumstances that have been rated ‘outstanding’ at least twice.”

The report concludes John Burns is a “very successful, heavily oversubscribed and highly regarded school.” I spent four years as a governor at the school shortly after the current headteacher, Maura Keady, started in post and can attest to her drive and determination for the school.

Recognition like this from Ofsted speaks volumes for the work she, and other staff, have done in the school over the years.

I would imagine few people would be surprised if I were to say that this week has been dominated by the European elections.

As a consequence, this report is going to be short. First, I’m fairly shattered by a last week of campaigning that culminated in a 17 hour election day (I started at 5am). Second, it means there is little else to report on.

My sole ‘meeting’ of the week was at Shaftesbury Park school, where I serve as one of the council-appointed governors. It was actually two meetings, the first looking at the school’s budget and other operational issues and the second looking at the academic side of the school. One of the topics discissed was how Shaftesbury Park has a high proportion of students with special educational needs (something I think we need to understand the reasons behind) and what the school is doing to meet those needs.

But without a doubt the elections dominated my week. We are now in a limbo between elections and results, so I’ve no idea how it went. Turnout was definitely low but, while I’ve not seen official figures, anecdotally it seems Shaftesbury’s turnout was higher than many other parts of Wandsworth.

I also think the Conservatives did well, we were well received on the doorstep and the streets while campaigning. Certainly the early local election results outside of London seem to reflect that it was a bad day for Labour and a good day for us.

Obviously how that will impact on the national scene, and then back onto us, remains to be seen.

One thing of which I am sure is that it’s back to business as usual next week.

I, and the other Shaftesbury ward councillors, recently wrote to residents whose homes back onto the Elsley School about the security arrangements in place there.

The school was closed following last year’s flooding and re-located to the Nightingale School site.  While this was necessary because of the flooding damage, it also made good educational sense.  The two schools are federated and share management, and both specialise in teaching children with emotional and behavioural disorders.  I served as a governor at Elsley School for several years before they federated and, frankly, the Victorian building was not suitable for a 21st century school.

However this has left a vacant building which has its own needs and neighbours were concerned about security.  We asked the Children’s Services department to look into it.  As a result:

  • the school has had a security audit, and potential access points made more secure
  • surplus equipment and tools have been removed from the site
  • the Children’s Services department are undertaking regular inspections of the site
  • the council’s Parks Police service now include the site in their rota of security visits.

If you live in Elsley Road or Gideon Road and see anything happening on the site that concerns you can call the Parks Police control room on 020 8871 7532.  Of course, if a crime is in progress you should call 999 immediately.