School where i helps to teach pupils about the wider world

It's a lesson in literacy, current affairs and geography

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The Independent Online

There are not many things that would make pupils voluntarily turn up to school early. But every Tuesday, at Honilands Primary School in Enfield, north London, scores of children do exactly that.

They come for the newspaper club, run by teacher John Gilbert - and the publication they read and discuss each week is i. No fewer than 138 children turned up last week, when i paid a surprise visit to the school, located on a housing estate just inside the M25. Some already had their paper; others presented Mr Gilbert with their 30p for a copy.

Older children arrived holding the hands of five- and six-year-old siblings, and read out loud to them. One girl, aged eight, seemed to be doing well on the puzzles page. A few discussed the football or class gossip rather than the day's news, but most had their heads in their papers, or asked Mr Gilbert questions.

Mr Gilbert's aim is to expand the pupils' horizons. Although the Honilands intake is drawn from a wide range of ethnic backgrounds, many of the children i spoke to had not visited places in central London that featured in that day's paper, let alone those on the Panorama page. But there was a world map projected in the hall, and they were looking up to see where those places were.

Mr Gilbert told them that if they could speak about the world outside Enfield (knowing, for example, that Angela Merkel is the Chancellor of Germany rather than a member of a girl band): "You will be memorable, not forgettable."

Mr Gilbert, a bow-tie-wearing peripatetic teacher who also works in Poland and Uganda, runs i newspaper clubs and inter-school debates in several schools in London and the South-east. His enthusiasm for newspapers, and i in particular, as a means of teaching current affairs, literacy, geography, arts and more is infectious.

Teachers at Honilands are using i in lessons, he tells me. We at i would love to hear of similar projects and if we can help by connecting clubs with each other, we will gladly do so.