Very appropriately on the day before I (kind of) officially start my new life with the welcome day tomorrow at the university where I will be doing my teacher training - I went along for the picket line at Downhills School followed by the family fun day in the nearby park.
Downhills is my local primary school and the strike is against its 'forced academisation'. (For those who haven't followed the case, Michael Grove has introduced this new verb into the language to signify the taking over of a community school be a private management company against the wishes of it Governors. And its teaching staff. And its support staff. And its parents).
The campaign puts a lot of emphasis on the idea of 'community'. And today at the family fun day - listening to the wonderful Michael Rosen giving a very simple but powerful speech about what the right to the best possible education for all actually means, eating a free picnic of Caribbean food donated by supporters, and crawling around pretending to be a cat as a part of a kids' poetry workshop - I get what they mean by 'community'.
It's something that only truly dawned on me once I had started volunteering in local schools: Schools are in every sense the heart and soul of a local area. They reflect every bit of its character - its strengths and its problems. Many people, particularly in London don't get the chance to appreciate this. I didn't, when I spent most of my waking hours working in a completely different 'community' - only six miles away but very far removed from where I live. In fact for the past ten years I probably identified more with the 'creative industries' ghetto of Soho than I did with the area where I have lived for 25 years.
So - it is only since I was made redundant, and since I've been around schools that I really get this 'community' thing. It's an over-used concept by most politicians - but despite the spin it does actually exist. And hopefully the Tories will find that they fuck with it at their peril.