Wednesday, 23 July 2014

Probably the Best School in the World

Today my daughter had her last day at her primary school in Stepney. She couldn’t have asked for a better start in life. Creative, caring and committed teachers; diverse, loving and loyal friends – she’s had it all. We often hear how divided Tower Hamlets is supposed to be. Not at Sir William Burrough School.

The Jewish head-teacher, Avril Newman, is one of the most inspirational people you’ll ever meet. She oozes presence and wisdom. Her influence seems to trickle down through the teachers, the classroom assistants and the support staff to the kids. There’s an almost tangible feeling of calm, optimism and family that spills out into the life of the community.

The school intake is very diverse with children from many backgrounds. The majority have a Bangladeshi heritage and there's a very high proportion of Muslims. The prevailing narrative would have us wonder if this type of school might be a ‘hotbed of extremism’. A need to keep a weather-eye for ‘Trojan-horse’ type plots, perhaps? Failing that, at least some deep religious and ethnic division, if not amongst the kids then surely the parents?
In 8 years we’ve seen virtually none of that. During our time we’ve come through two Tower Hamlets mayoral elections, numerous English Defence League demos, the Lee Rigby murder just across the river and the constant background drone reminding us that our values are supposed to be incompatible. The relationships in this school community have held firm.
Thank you Sir William Burrough for a great 8 years! Probably the best school in the world.

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