Olympic legacy chief Lord Mawson urges government against education cuts on visit to Stepney’s Halley Primary School

PUBLISHED: 07:00 17 January 2018 | UPDATED: 14:45 17 January 2018

Lord Mawson... 'Invest in our future generation.

Lord Mawson... 'Invest in our future generation." Picture: Mike Brooke

Mike Brooke

The man who brought the 2012 Olympics to east London has railed against spending cuts to education and is calling for investment in our future generation.

Halley Primary School head Wendy Otterburn-Hall greets Lord Mawson arriving. Picture: Mike BrookeHalley Primary School head Wendy Otterburn-Hall greets Lord Mawson arriving. Picture: Mike Brooke

Lord Mawson, the former Stepney vicar who founded of the Bromley-by-Bow centre and was the energy behind Olympics legacy and regeneration, is urging the government not to lose sight of the East End’s success.

His call comes in the face of a new Whitehall funding formula spreading education budgets more thinly and taking priority away from needy urban areas.

“These children are the future,” he tells tomorrow’s East London Advertiser. “Tower Hamlets schools have made massive progress, but it doesn’t happen by magic, only by hard work and investment.

“Things can go the other way quite quickly if we don’t keep a handle on it.”

Lord Mawson... Lord Mawson... "Tower Hamlets schools' massive progress doesn’t happen by magic, only by hard work and investment." Picture: Mike Brooke

He made his observations on a private visit to Stepney’s Halley Primary School to talk to Year 6 pupils about Parliament and democracy. One 10-year-old had asked his views on cuts to school budgets.

“The children were very switched on,” Lord Mawson noted. “They had done their preparation with their teacher.”

He wasn’t part of the government, he told the youngsters, but was concerned about the money schools get from Whitehall.

“We need clearer thinking,” he said. “Things are getting held up while we’re all busy talking about Brexit at 60,000ft. There are practical matters on the streets that we need to get on with.”

Halley Primary Year 6 pupils quiz Lord Mawson on school funding cuts. Picture: Mike BrookeHalley Primary Year 6 pupils quiz Lord Mawson on school funding cuts. Picture: Mike Brooke

Lord Mawson is a former East End church minister who set up the Bromley-by-Bow centre with a modest £400 budget in 1983 to generate social innovation, which has grown in 35 years with 70 businesses, four health centres and 100 activities a week.

“I want to move on from the narrative of ‘how poor the little East End is’,” he tells you.

“I personally don’t buy that. Half our children go on to top universities.

“We need to believe the children and people in east London are as clever as anywhere else and create a culture that gets behind them.”

Lord Mawson gives Stepney pupils an inside view of the House of Lords. Picture: Mike BrookeLord Mawson gives Stepney pupils an inside view of the House of Lords. Picture: Mike Brooke

His no-nonsense drive cut across international perceptions when Paris was favoured to win the race to stage the 2012 Olympics. The first campaign meeting to challenge Paris was at his Bromley centre. He went for it.

“We didn’t think we’d beat Paris, but had a go to see what happens,” he recalls. “It was a bit of a shock when we won!”

It proved the turning point for east London. The Olympic legacy continues with Lord Mawson chairing the London Legacy Development Corporation with its once-in-a-lifetime opportunity that created the Olympic Park as east London’s “new heart”.

Halley Primary’s head teacher Wendy Otterburn-Hall runs with his ‘no holds barred’ philosophy. She insists: “Our children can hold their own with the best in the land if they choose to. Lord Mawson’s visit was something to go home and think about, now their curiosity is aroused.”

Lord Mawson is now helping create the Northern Powerhouse, taking “the lesson of east London to 10 cities in the north” to show how one of the country’s most deprived areas of industrial decline reinvented itself as Britain’s entrepreneurial engine house.

It was all thanks to his daring in challenging Paris to win the 2012 Olympics.

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