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Hanham Woods Academy students enjoyed a unique insight into the world of politics this week when they were invited to put questions to the man widely tipped to be the next UK Prime Minister.

Labour Party Leader Sir Keir Starmer visited the Bristol school alongside Damien Egan, a former Hanham Woods pupil who is representing Labour in the Kingswood by-election later this month.

The visitors began their visit by meeting Principal Steve O’Callaghan, who outlined the school’s rapid journey from an inadequate Ofsted rating in 2017 to its current rating of ‘good’, earned in 2019.

Mr O-Callaghan – and colleagues from the Cabot Learning Federation, which Hanham Woods is part of – also updated Sir Keir on the challenges schools face in returning pupil attendance to pre-pandemic levels.

The group then enjoyed a tour of the school and took time to speak with Year 7 pupils during a tutor session, where they were quizzed about their respective career paths into politics, and whether Sir Keir ‘is friends’ with current Prime Minister Rishi Sunak.

They were also asked role of a Prime Minister, which Sir Keir answered by likening the job to that of a school Principal, who he said is also responsible for creating a community environment where all members can thrive.

The visitors then moved on to a grilling from school council members, who tackled them on their past careers, future ambitions and topical issues.

Students were urged to ‘be happy, and be confident’ in life, with Sir Keir reminding them “It is very important you don’t have that voice in your head saying you can’t do something.”

Students were asked too about the issues that matter most to them, both in school and out. Answers ranged from environmental concerns to support for young people’s mental health and the cost-of-living pressures facing families.

Sir Keir said the pupils had been “Absolutely fantastic” and “A credit to the school.”

Hanham Principal, Steve O’Callaghan, said, “It was fantastic to welcome Sir Keir Starmer and former Hanham Woods student Damien Egan to the academy.

“This was a great opportunity for students to engage, ask questions and explore future career opportunities. Thank you to our wonderful students who were fantastic throughout.”