Pupils put on a show for Education Secretary
Education Secretary Damian Hinds was in for a treat when he made his 100th school visit since taking on the role.
Blackhorse Primary in Emersons Green welcomed Mr Hinds with a demonstration of activities at its lunchtime clubs.
These ranged from performances of numbers from their recent successful production of Mary Poppins Junior to a fencing display and a recital from the newly-formed orchestra. Children and staff told him about the school’s link with a school in Uganda and provided him with a treat from the healthy tuck shop.
The Education Secretary also found time to pop into the dining hall and wish a happy 60th birthday to the school’s cook of 20 years Bev Hawkins, as well as talking to the headteacher Simon Botten and school business leader Debbie Beazer.
Pupils who met Mr Hinds told him how sports and other extra-curricular activities had helped them build confidence, learn skills and make friends.
After the visit, Mr Hinds said: “I was delighted to visit Blackhorse Primary in South Gloucestershire – my 100th visit since taking the role of Education Secretary.
“In particular, it was great to see how the school is building the character and resilience of its pupils by offering a range of extra-curricular activities including choir, orchestra, fencing, and the running club. Activities of this kind stretch and challenge young people and help them to enhance their self-esteem and confidence.
“I've had the privilege of visiting multiple schools and colleges across the country, and have been repeatedly struck by the hard work, care, and imagination shown by teachers – and their dedication to doing the best for their pupils.”
Emersons Green Voice was the only media outlet invited to the visit. Mr Botten said: “After always being a friend to Blackhorse, it was only right that the Voice got the scoop about today's visit from the Secretary of State.”
Campaigners from Fair Funding for All Schools South Gloucestershire and South Glos SEND Crisis staged a peaceful demonstration outside the school before the visit and Mr Hinds offered to meet them afterwards.
Members outlined to him the budget squeeze facing schools in the district, which is the lowest funded local authority in the county, and explained the difficulties schools and families were facing because Bristol and South Glos councils have overspent their high needs funding from the Government.
Some of the protesters were also due to attend the SEND Crisis demonstration on May 30 on College Green in Bristol, one of a series throughout the country highlighting the problem.
A Department for Education spokesman told the Voice that Mr Hinds was clear that high needs funding was a priority, recognised the challenges that local authorities, including South Gloucestershire, face and was committed to working with schools on the issue in the run-up to the Government’s spending review in the autumn.