New minister goes back to school

28th August 1998 at 01:00
Literacy projects hailed a success as report claims lack of recognition for staff development

THE NEW schools minister Charles Clarke dipped his toe into the educational waters this week, with a visit to England's largest 11-to-16 school.

The Department for Education's new recruit was visiting Langdon comprehensive in East Ham, east London, which was running a numeracy summer school for local primary children. He also dropped in on Langdon's literacy and pilot special needs summer schools - the latter two integrated in line with Newham council's "inclusive education policy".

And what did we learn about the new boy? Neil Kinnock's former press secretary proved he is relaxed with children, his maths is OKIand his own children like to leave spiders in his boots.

To nobody's surprise, the 47-year-old minister pronounced himself impressed by what he had seen, and said that he would like to see this summer's 50 pilot numeracy schools expand next year - cash permitting.

"The children here are very excited by it. They all said they feel they have gained from it and developed more confidence in reading, writing and with numbers," he said. "The teachers have been exceptionally committed to it and have enjoyed the creativity of it."

Mr Clarke saw pupils from Langdon's five partner primaries playing number games together and on computers - though most mornings are spent in government-approved whole-class teaching. He also proved that, unlike his predecessor, Stephen Byers, his maths is up to scratch, helping one group work out six times eight divided by two .

And he saw local children's author Anne Cassidy tell a literacy class how she came to write her book The Spider Pie. Mr Clarke told pupils he liked spiders - "I have to with my kids. They put them in my shoes."

The flying visit went down well with the children, despite the camera flashing. "The minister's OK," 11-year-old Ashley McFayden said. "I like him."

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