Clegg and David Laws visit Whitechapel school

Pic: Cabinet Office

Pupils at a Tower Hamlets school grilled Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg and newly appointed education minister David Laws on Wednesday morning.

The embattled Lib Dem leader and the scandal-hit Laws had breakfast with pupils and staff at Mulberry School for Girls in Whitechapel, discussing the government’s Pupil Premium scheme as well as answering questions from Year 10 and 11 classes.

It was Laws’ first act as minister following the coalition’s cabinet reshuffle on Tuesday, after resigning over his expenses in May 2010 – just 22 days after the election.

Head teacher Vannessa Ogden, said pupils had gained “a great deal of confidence” from the chance to meet and question senior politicians.

She said: “The most important thing about the visit in my opinion was the opportunity it gave to the students to speak to the deputy prime minister and the minister and to hear from them directly, and to be able to question them directly – which they wouldn’t otherwise have the chance to do.”

Amongst the questions put to the pair were some about women’s representation in the House of Commons. One question was about the availability of internships to those without family or business connections. Another about the cabinet reshuffle.

The pair discussed the government’s Pupil Premium, which will see new funding allocated to schools with a large number of  pupils who qualify for free school meals.

Also present at the breakfast meeting were Tower Hamlets council’s Isobel Cattermole, the Corporate Director for Children, and Oliur Rahman, Cabinet Member for Children Schools and Family.

Rahman said after the meeting: “Tower Hamlets has some of the best schools in the country, and our commitment to ensuring a first class education for all our young people will shape the future leaders of the UK.”

Laws resigned as Chief Secretary to the Treasury just weeks into the coalition government taking power, after questions were raised about his housing expenses.

The Yeovil MP was also suspended from the Commons for one week in 2011, following an inquiry into breaches of parliamentary rules. He later apologised to parliament and voluntarily repaid £56,000 of allowances that he had paid in rent,  over a number of year, for a room in a flat owned by his partner.

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