Thursday, 1 April 2010

Visit to no.10 Downing Street

Thursday 18 March began like any other day. I arrived at school at around 8.10 am and signed in as usual. Following a brief chat with a few colleagues I then returned to my office to read the day's correspondence. On my desk was a telephone message which said ''Are you available to go to number 10 Downing street on Monday afternoon, please call 0131....''! My initial thought was that this must be an early April fool prank from one of my colleagues. I 'phoned the number to discover that this was indeed a genuine call. My local MP, Nigel Griffiths had been asked to nominate someone in education who had made a positive impact on their school and community, and had invited me to go. I was delighted to accept the invitation and, having made the travel arrangements, i was looking forward to visiting London.

Anticipating travel delays, resulting BA strikes, i chose to travel down on Sunday arriving at Heathrow at around 5 pm. It was lovely to stay with great friends in the north of London who I hadn't seen for over a year.

On the Monday morning, I set off from Cockfosters station at around 10.30 am, arriving at Embankment station at 11.15 am. As it was a lovely day I walked along the Thames to Westminster Palace in plenty of time. As I wasn't meeting Nigel until 1230 I had time to do a bit of sightseeing.

After passing through security at the House of Commons I made my way to the central lobby where I met Nigel. We had a superb lunch in the Commons restaurant followed by coffee in an adjacent lounge. Seared scallops on a bed of salad, followed by roast loin of pork was quite a contrast to my typical Monday school lunch!

At around 2.00 we made the short walk to Downing Street. Passing through another security checkpoint I found myself standing outside that famous door. Once inside we made our way up the spiral staircase, past the portraits of former prime ministers. During the next hour I had opportunity to meet with other educationalists and MPs from all over the country. When a hush went round the room I became aware that Ed Balls (Secretary of State for Children, Schools and Families) was addressing the assembly. An inspiring presentation from him led to his introducing Gordon Brown. Mr Brown spoke warmly of his school days, and, thanked everyone present for their contributions to making a difference to young people's lives. Afterwards, Mr Brown mingled among us to shake hands and to thank us.

Before leaving number 10, I was thrilled to have had the opportunity to visit the cabinet room.

On reflection, I really enjoyed what was a fantastic day. Meeting others from across the UK, and, of course, the Prime Minister, made for a day I will never forget.

Another highlight of the day for me was the time I spent in the company of Nigel Griffiths. He was a wonderful host and font of knowledge about the various people we met and the buildings we visited. What really impressed me about Nigel, was that he never spoke ill of anyone. We met people from all the different parties and reminisced about many others. Not once did he adversely criticise anyone. For me that was as memorable as it was unexpected. Perhaps the media should focus less on the adversarial side of politics.

On returning to school it was great to be greeted by kids who were excited to hear that I had been to meet the Prime Minister. When one young lad remarked, 'It's great to know we attend a good school', it made me feel proud of what we have achieved at Liberton High. As those who know the school will know, we have made considerable progress in the past few years, but much remains to be done. In particular, we must continue to improve attainment across the school and make further inroads to ensuring that all of our leavers progress to positive destinations.