Doncaster meets Downing Street: A very political adventure in the big city

14 June 2018

Author: By: Claire Dutton, Richmond Hill Primary Academy With: Jack Wardle, Woodfield Primary School and Lucie Pond, Hungerhill School

Take three young(ish) professionals, suited and booted, tearing through London’s King Cross Station with map in hand and that giddy look of nervous excitement plastered all over their faces and what have you got?  Nope … it’s not a new series of The Apprentice (although it felt very close at times!).  It was in fact the day that three teachers from Doncaster headed to the capital to meet with Prime Minister May at a Department for Education reception to celebrate the outstanding work of teachers.

When the invite first came through via a very unexpected e-mail we all agree we thought it was a joke, then we questioned if it was some sort of phishing mail designed to dupe teachers across the globe.  However, once it transpired that the invite was genuine and that we had just two weeks until our visit to Number 10, the excitement – along with a good old dose of imposter syndrome set in!

Our day in London was a great experience and we were fortunate enough to take in a bit of sightseeing before our early evening reception at Downing Street.  So, with Trafalgar Square and Buckingham Palace ticked off we queued up outside the gates of the infamous Downing Street landmark.  It felt like some sort of giant outdoor staff room as we stood and chatted on the pavement with almost 100 teachers from all over the country … all wearing their Sunday best and all with a different tale to tell of how they (and their colleagues back at school) were working hard to improve the educational experiences of their pupils.  Once through security and ‘The Door’ any visions of dancing like Hugh Grant in Love Actually were squashed as the impressiveness of one of the most famous residences in Britain sunk in and we were ushered into a small reception room of about 25 teachers to await the PM’s arrival.

If the invite alone had been enough to serve a slice of imposter syndrome then being in the same room as Andria Zafirakou, the Global Teacher of the Year, and shaking hands with the Secretary of State for Education, Damian Hinds was the cherry on top!  Our meet and greet with Theresa herself was short and sweet but we were sure to mention that we were from Doncaster and very happy to return for a second visit if she would have us – after all, the canapés were divine!

After our personal meeting with the Prime Minister, we were ushered to join the remaining guests and to enjoy the rest of the reception.  Ms May gave a rousing speech which shared her own childhood experiences of education (you would not have wanted her in your class – trust us!) and which reminded us of the great work that all teachers do up and down the country, the kind of work that changes lives.  Prime Minister May also reminded us that her government is working hard to reduce our ever-expanding workload which, of course, received a rapturous round of applause!

We are aware that, up to this point, we are probably guilty for sharing our Downing Street experience as ‘just’ a jolly day out but (whilst it was very much a fun trip!) we do appreciate the political debates which often come into play around such events – the hidden curriculum, if you will!  There is often a great deal of tension between politics and education, and yet the two are inextricably linked – they cannot survive without one another.  There simply isn’t enough space in this blog to address the areas of educational policy currently under the spotlight but to say that there may be a conflict of interest between stakeholders is a serious understatement.  However, whatever your political persuasion, it cannot be disputed that for teachers to be invited ‘inside’ is a good thing.  Indeed, for education to be given the props it deserves alongside the recognition it craves, is most definitely a good thing.

Our experience has left us with a newfound political interest and it feels as though teachers may finally have their foot in the doorway of the wider system leaders and policy makers.  As such, the questions now – for teachers in Doncaster and beyond – include:

·         How do we take this ‘good thing’ and start to make the changes that we want to see in our schools?

·         How can teachers work with system and policy makers to shape the opportunities needed for the future of opportunity areas like Doncaster?

·         What can we do to create the right educational system for our pupils?

We all thoroughly enjoyed our day out in the big city, and will treasure the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity which comes with an invitation (and photo opportunity!) to Number 10.  However, we are most grateful for the honour of being able to represent Doncaster at such an exciting event.  To represent our colleagues from schools across the town and to share with others from across the country all the exciting things that are happening to make Doncaster the one to watch!

With many thanks to our colleagues at the Doncaster Opportunity Area board for our nominations, and to our schools for releasing us to enjoy the experience in full.


Posted on 14 June 2018
Posted in: Blog

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