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‘You can’t talk about poverty – people say it’s an excuse’

Too often, the specific challenges faced by schools in disadvantaged areas seem to be overlooked by policymakers, warns James Eldon. Here, the principal of Manchester Enterprise Academy tells Will Hazell of the need for a new national debate. He also reflects on the impact of personally witnessing the aftermath of two terrorist atrocities this year

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On the afternoon of 22 March, James Eldon was in the Houses of Parliament.

He was waiting to begin a meeting with the schools’ minister, Nick Gibb, to discuss Manchester Enterprise Academy, the school in Wythenshawe where Eldon is principal. Gibb was running late, so the appointment had been pushed back by 20 minutes and Eldon was left kicking his heels.

He couldn’t have guessed what was about to happen next.

“I went out into Westminster Hall and heard some awful noises – and then the gunfire,” he recalls.

At 2.40pm a 4x4 mounted the pavement on Westminster Bridge, injuring at least 50 ...

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