Nine of the councillors spent the morning at Greenford High School today. As part of Local Democracy Week we were taking part in an event billed as political speed-dating. I am happy to report that there was nothing improper. Each councillor spent 3 minutes being interviewed by 2 or 3 sixth formers and then we moved on to the next group.
It was bracing and fun to meet 20 or so sixth formers from Greenford and Southall. They had a range of questions but a number of issues kept coming up: immigration was one and the effect it had on their ability to get part-time jobs, personal safety and in particular knife crime and facilities for young people.
You may know that Greenford High School has been completely rebuilt with Â£40 million of central government cash and this is the school’s first term in its new premises. One perceptive young man questioned whether the money had been well spent. Certainly the site looked great but Colm Costello for one could not understand why the refectory and the auditorium we were using were built on quite such a grand scale. It feels like the architect was happy to spread buildings around the playing fields – so much for obesity then. The sixth formers were very ambivalent about the new building and were sorry to see their old 1939 building being bulldozed. A frequent complaint was how long it took to navigate around the new campus and many felt that it was a bit ambitious for the 11 year-olds. I asked one group in particular if they thought that the institution itself had been strengthened by this investment. The answer was no.
Back to the event. Those taking part scored the councillors under five categories such as listening skills, would you vote for them, etc. The top three were:
1 – Councillor Bassam Mahfouz
2 – Councillor Colm Costello
3 – Councillor Shabaz Ahmed
Well done to Bassam, the winner for the second year in a row, and well done to Colm too for keeping the Tory end up. Thankfully the rest of us did not have our scores read out. I guess I have to accept that telling sixth formers what they want to hear may not be my strong suit.