Three local schools win awards for work with disadvantaged pupils

Lynne Featherstone MP with Hornsey School for Girls studentsAlexandra Park School, Highgate Wood Secondary School, and Hornsey School for Girls have been recognised as going the extra mile to help disadvantaged students.

The schools have received a £5,000 award for the work they have done to boost the achievements of pupils from less privileged backgrounds, by putting the Pupil Premium to effective use.

The Pupil Premium is £2.5bn of extra money that is targeted towards helping disadvantaged students in school. It is a key Liberal Democrat policy, now delivered in Government.

All three schools are now eligible to apply for a prize of up to £250,000 – the winner of which will be announced by Nick Clegg in March.

Lynne Featherstone MP said:

“It is great that three schools in Hornsey and Wood Green have received this award for excellent use of the Pupil Premium funding. I have visited all three of these schools over the past few years and have seen this good work for myself.

“The Pupil Premium funding helps make sure that everyone has the best chance to get on in life. That’s why the Lib Dems fought so hard to implement the policy, and why we’re rewarding those schools that have put it to best use.”

Liberal Democrat Schools Minister David Laws said:

“Alexandra Park, Highgate Wood, and Hornsey Girls can rightly be proud of their work to improve the life chances of children in Haringey.

“I would encourage all of the secondary schools which have received a prize to share their successful approach with other schools so they can learn from their experience.”

Pupil Premium boost for Haringey schools – MP Lynne Featherstone

Lynne Featherstone with the head teacher of Highgate Wood School, one of the schools she visited over the summer to find out how the Pupil Premium funding is being spentLynne Featherstone, Liberal Democrat Member of Parliament for Hornsey and Wood Green, is urging local schools to share their experiences with the Pupil Premium funding given to schools by the coalition government.

Lynne Featherstone has written to schools in the area asking how they spent the Pupil Premium funding – calculated as £8.8 million for Haringey schools. She has also asked schools that ran summer schools under a related government scheme what their experiences have been.

Lynne Featherstone commented:

“I have heard from a number of local schools already. The Pupil Premium has been spent on increased pastoral support and in direct efforts to raise boys’ attainment; extra staff have been recruited to work on literacy and numeracy; Alexandra Park School has boosted its hardship fund and set up a youth group. One school in Wood Green plans to take on a careers advisor as part of its package of measures while another high school in the area has invested in providing literacy boosters for children entering the school with lower attainment levels.

“All of this sounds like great news but I want the full picture from all local schools.”

Councillor Katherine Reece, Liberal Democrat spokesperson on education issues in Haringey, added:

“The Pupil Premium is a powerful tool. The funding is linked to the child so people from poorer backgrounds are helped even if they live surrounded by relative affluence. And schools are free to spend the money as they think works best making it doubly flexible. It should make a real difference to local children.”

Lynne Featherstone and Haringey Liberal Democrats plan to publish a report sharing the experiences of local schools with the Pupil Premium later in the autumn.

Young writing talent on special visit to Parliament after winning MP's competition

Lynne Featherstone and Roela MehmetiAfter winning Liberal Democrat MP Lynne Featherstone’s writing competition in the autumn, Roela Mehmeti, 11, this week went to collect her prize as she shadowed the Hornsey and Wood Green MP in Parliament.

The Alexandra Park School student won the Democracy Week competition on the theme ‘If I ruled the world’ after fierce competition from secondary school pupils across the constituency (see her entry here). For her special prize, Lynne Featherstone MP gave the 11 year old an exclusive tour of Parliament and took her for lunch in one of Parliament’s restaurants, whilst explaining what being an MP is really like.

Lynne Featherstone MP, comments:

“It was great to finally meet Roela, after reading her moving piece on the importance of the family. Her entry really pulled at the heartstrings, and it’s clear that she’s amazingly talented.

“I hope this has given her a good understanding of what being an MP is really like – and maybe it’s grown a little seed for her to one day try it for herself!”

Roela Mehmeti, 11, from Alexandra Park School, adds:

“I was really surprised and happy when my form teacher told me that I had won the competition. And I have had a really nice day in Parliament today. It’s been very special.”

Update – Alexandra Park School has also got a story about this on the front of its website at the moment.

Jack Petchey Speak Out speaking competition

This year, the Jack Petchey Speak Out speaking competition was hosted by Alexandra Park School. Year 10 (14 – 15 years of age) students from all over Haringey came together to compete in the Regional Final Stage. I was meant to have been a judge – but due to a debate on Violence Against Women being put in for yesterday afternoon – it meant I would not make it for the briefing of judges and the first half of the speakers – but would be there to listen to the last half, give out certificates to all and the prizes to the winners.

My LibDem colleague, Leader of the LibDem Group on Haringey, stepped ably into the breach.

This year, 20,000 year 10 teenagers from every state school in London and Essex will receive a day’s training in the skills of public speaking. As part of the project each young speaker has the opportunity to Speak Out on any topic they feel strongly about.

And wow – when I walked into the hall – the blast of energy and enthusiasm was electric. I only heard the last six speakers but they were fantastic. They spoke without notes – and what was electrifying – was that they used something inside themselves and their experience – to make their point. Mighty powerful.

There was a sharp intake of breath when one young speaker who was making the point that young people need to think for themselves and be an individual and not just accept being what other people tell you to be said that for two seconds her brother didn’t use his brain, joined in a group committing a crime, and spent the next 18 months in prison. That brought it home.

And the young man who won was talking about how a smile begets a smile. But a frown, begets a grimace, begets a snarl, begets a fist, begets a knife. And then said that his brother was shot and died. But if the beginning of the chain that led to his brother’s death had been a smile – his brother would not have died.

Powerful stuff indeed.

Well done to all the Year 10s who took part and to all those who put in so much time and effort to organise it and making the roaring success it was.

MP judges debating competition at local school

Alexandra Park School debatersIn a bid to support local students developing their communication skills, local MP Lynne Featherstone last week judged a debating competition at Alexandra Park School.

The Liberal Democrat MP was one of three judges helping to set the score in the first round of the school’s Mace Debating competition, between six north London schools. The competition, which took place between North London schools Queen Elizabeth’s, Ashmole, Alexandra Park, Haberdashers, St John’s and Enfield County, debated motions on making voting compulsory, assassinating dictators and randomly testing school pupils for drugs.

Lynne Featherstone MP comments: “It was fascinating to see how skilfully and persuasively the students debated the motions. It was a really tricky one to judge, as it’s clear we’re dealing with a bunch of exceptionally bright and talented local students.

“Developing debating skills is a great way to help structure thoughts and become a better communicator- and I think I have picked up a few tricks that might come in handy in the commons chamber! It was a hugely entertaining evening- so thanks!”

Lynne Featherstone MP selects winner of writing competition

Winning entryRoela Mehmeti aged 11, has been announced as the winner of Lynne Featherstone MP’s Democracy Week writing competition after fierce contest from some of Hornsey and Wood Green’s brightest writing talents.

The Alexandra Park School student was selected as the winner of the competition where students from local secondary schools got to explain what they would do if they ruled the world for a day, for her entry on the need for more love and stronger families. (Click on picture to see the winning entry.)

Roela will now get the chance to see what being an MP is really about, as she will shadow Lynne Featherstone for a day in Parliament.

The winning entry was chosen from an impressive range of thoughtful contributions from secondary schools students across Hornsey and Wood Green, and Lynne Featherstone has also given special commendations to eight exceptionally well-written entries.

Lynne Featherstone MP comments:

“Roela’s has written a beautiful and inspiring piece that really pulls your heartstrings. It tells of such a fundamental and essential thing as the need for people to have families who love and support them, and how more love in our society would mend many of its ills.

“Reading the entry, I was grabbed by it’s depth and message, especially from someone so young, and for that reason I feel Roela is a very worthy winner.

“But the decision was not an easy one. I have yet again been gob-smacked by the amazing range of imaginative, wise and funny entries- we really have a treasure of talented writers here in Hornsey and Wood Green, and that makes me very proud!”

Democracy Week competition launch at local school

Democracy Week at Alexandra Park SchoolTo mark democracy week and help kick start discussions in local schools about politics, Lynne Featherstone MP launched her mini-writing competition at Alexandra Park School last week.

The Hornsey and Wood Green MP helped students in a year 7 class brain storm on the essay topic ‘what I would do if I ruled the world for a day’. Lynne has invited students from all local secondary schools to join in, and the winner will get the chance to see first hand what politics is about by shadowing Lynne for a day in Parliament.

Lynne Featherstone MP comments:

“The idea behind having a democracy competition was to help local schools debate issues around local and global problems and the role politics plays in dealing with them.

“Every time I have the privilege to meet students in local schools and hear their thoughts on issues, I am amazed by the insight and thoughtfulness of their comments- and today was certainly no exception.

“Hopefully I’ll receive entries from across the constituency- I’m getting ready for some serious food for thought!”

Local Democracy Week – Alexandra Park School

Lynne Featherstone at Alexandra Park SchoolIf I ruled the world I would ………….. that’s the challenge I have set local children in Hornsey & Wood Green schools to tell me in 200 words for Local Democracy Week.

I launched my mini-writing competition today at Alexandra Park School – where the amazing Jo (Citizenship teacher extraordinaire) had agreed to set up to undertake this project with the Citizenship and the English classes working together. So today I was attending the Citizenship class where Jo was brainstorming with the children to get them involved and engaged in beginning to think what sort of things might need changing or what worried them – and then – how that might be changed.

The first round of ideas were just brilliant – from the young girl who wanted to make life better for young carers, to world peace and beyond. I’m not going to go through the list – but suffice to say – that it is completely fascinating to to listen to the ideas they had about what worried them – and recognise where the input came from. Some clearly came from school work, much from television and newscasts  – but Jo was really clever – and as well as those sort of universal issues tried to move them onto a more personal level of what worried or concerned them in their own lives.

So I am greatly looking forward to reading all the submissions when they come in. I always feel very uplifted when I come out of a school visit like that.

Mike Terry OBE

I was very sorry to hear news of the death of Mike Terry, best known to many of us as the Head of Science at Alexandra Park School. He died last week when he was training for a charity run. Nigel Scott, one of our councillors for Alexandra Ward, who is also a governor at the school told me more about him:

Although he was not the head of the school, in many ways, Mike was its heart. He was a pillar of strength to the founding head, Roz Hudson and to her successor, Michael McKenzie. He always had time for everyone, with a kind word and sound advice. It was Mike Terry’s drive, determination and enthusiasm that secured Science Status for the school and he was instrumental in setting up the school’s links with Ephes Mamkeli School in South Africa.

While most people in the school community knew that Mike had been involved in the Anti-Apartheid Movement, few appreciated the depth of his commitment. He was its Executive Secretary for twenty years and oversaw its emergence from being a small campaign group to becoming a key player in changing world opinion and reforming South Africa. When reform came to South Africa and the Anti-Apartheid Movement was wound up, Mike’s enthusiasm was diverted into a new career as a teacher and Alexandra Park School was the main beneficiary.

He was loved and will be missed not just in the school community, but by his many friends in South Africa and elsewhere. We need more like him.

Big PFI bills hits Haringey schools

Met with the Head, Roz Hudson, and the Chair of Governors, Steph Gold of Alexandra Park School about the massive bill (around £300,000 in figures given to my Lib Dem colleague Cllr Gail Engert) that has landed on their desk courtesy of the Government’s PFI for schools program and the appalling PFI contract, negotiated by Haringey.

This contract, it appears, allows the PFI contractor (in this case Jarvis) variations. Well variations are not unusual – but these are not discussed or agreed with the school – they are just landed on the school. And it’s not just Alexandra Park School – it’s all of the secondary schools in Haringey.

In answers to questions posed by Gail, Haringey Council confirmed that Haringey’s secondary schools would be liable for PFI back payments totalling over £2 million.

Our schools are striving hard to improve performance and meet targets in Haringey. Alexandra Park School is doing brilliantly and meeting its targets. If Haringey and the Government refuse to acknowledge that these extra costs – for which they give no extra funding to the schools in their budgets to meet – are their liability and not the schools – then it will mean that pressure on schools’ budgets will harm the service that schools are providing to children in Haringey.

So – these are the PFI chickens coming home to roost. However, it is not the schools who should foot the bill for Haringey’s poor contract negotiation. I am writing to the new Schools’ Minister, Ed Balls, to ask that he review the situation in Haringey’s schools and together with Haringey Council come up with an financial rescue plan that either pays the bills or puts extra funding into the school budgets to meet the costs.

As the years go by – we will find more and more problems with these PFI wonders. At the time, it was Hobson’s choice. Schools either accepted the PFI deals set up for them – or there was nothing – absolutely nothing for them. And the sting in the tail for the Council is that the next ten years of funding for schools’ buildings – called Building Schools for the Future (BSF) – won’t kick in until these bills are all paid.