PUPILS at Horizon Community College were shocked to see Prime Minister Boris Johnson virtually attend their maths lesson last Friday.
Youngsters thought that they would be asking questions to Miriam Cates, MP for Penistone and Stocksbridge, who also attended the lesson, but it wasn’t until principal Claire Huddart welcomed the Prime Minister into the session they were aware what was happening.
The school had been recommended to Number 10 by the Department for Education following their exemplary work during lockdown - something which Mrs Huddart believes is a ‘great accolade’ for the entirety of Barnsley.
She told the Chronicle: “It all started as I picked up a phone call from Number 10 saying that Boris Johnson would like to drop into a session on Friday.
“We were recommended and he wanted to congratulate the school on what hard work the students and staff had done - it was more recognition for their work.
“They had no idea he would be attending because I wanted to keep it a secret in case anything fell through at the last minute, so they prepared questions for Miriam.
“I had a notification saying that he was waiting in the lobby so I stopped the lesson and he came in - the image I have in my head is of one girl whose eyes were really wide in shock.
“All the students were brilliant and they represented Horizon really well.”
There were 31 students in the online lesson, many who put questions forward to the Prime Minister in the 20-minute slot, asking about the situation with GCSEs.
“It wasn’t a government-driven agenda at all because they didn’t ask for the questions beforehand,” Mrs Huddart added.
“He could have chosen any other school from 3,000 so it was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for them to speak to the Prime Minister.
“Online learning doesn’t replace face-to-face learning so we’re hoping to get them back in when we can - no-one was prepared for the first lockdown but we made sure we would be if we were to head into another.
“We offer five hours of live lessons each day to every student for every subject, and 95 per cent of our teachers are working from the college.”
Miriam added: “I know how hard Mrs Huddart and all the staff at Horizon have worked to make sure students can continue to learn at home during this lockdown, and it is very impressive that the school is able to offer five hours of quality live learning to every student every day.
“I’m so pleased that teachers and students had this opportunity to show the Prime Minister what they have achieved.”
The Prime Minister paid tribute to the school - which has more than 2,500 pupils - and its hard work during the pandemic.
He added: “It was fantastic to speak to teachers and students at Horizon last week.
“It was clear they’ve done a brilliant job adapting to online learning, and I thanked them all for their tremendous efforts and resilience during this challenging time.
“It is my absolute priority to get children back to the classroom as soon as possible, and ensure we make up for the learning they’ve lost in the last year.”