EDUCATION secretary Justine Greening went back to the classroom to officially open a new building at her former school.
The Tory MP was shown around the £12 million pound building by head teacher, David Naisbitt, and Year 11 pupils Will Monteiro and Safia Ajaib, the school’s head boy and girl.
The new building on Moorgate was commissioned and built as part of the Government’s Priority Schools Building Programme which aims to rebuild schools across the country that are in need of repair.
Ms Greening visited classrooms and unveiled a plaque to commemorate the opening during a ceremony in which she told pupils they were at a school that would help them become the best versions of themselves.
The MP for Putney also thanked her former teachers who “inspired her to work hard and try hard and gave her a push when I needed it”.
Former teachers, John Bingham (69), who taught her physical education and geography in the early 80s, and retired history teacher Richard Townsend (63), greeted Ms Greening on her arrival.
Mr Townsend said the education secretary had been a “well-behaved, sensible and model pupil.”
He said pupils had been excited for her visit and she was a great role model.
“They are going to be proud to have somebody from their school in Rotherham, not London, who’s gone to the top,” he said.
Talented music students gave the politician a preview of some of the songs that will feature in their upcoming show, Annie, as the unveiling ceremony got underway.
Mr Naisbitt said Ms Greening was a wonderful role model for pupils and a “strong female role model who achieved, not despite, but because she grew up in Rotherham and was educated at Oakwood”.
Ms Greening, who had stayed at her grandmother’s in Greasbrough the night before the visit, said: “I have been on lots of school visits but this is the most special one I have had because it brings me back to the school that I went to.”
She told pupils that when she had joined Oakwood from Herringthorpe Valley Juniors she had found her first year “quite difficult” because most of her friends had gone to Clifton.
But when she settled in she enjoyed sports and wasn’t a “straight A student”.
Ms Greening, who also studied at Thomas Rotherham College, said French lessons had proved valuable when she began working in Switzerland.
She urged pupils to push themselves and aspire to do the very best, adding: “I never thought I would be able to come back to this school, or end up in politics or as secretary of state for education.”
She added: “I see my job now as creating a country where it does not matter where you start – whether it’s Rotherham, Rochdale or the smartest bit of London – it’s important you have all the same opportunities to do well.”