Demo foiled by Mrs Thatcher
Over a thousand protesting students were foiled by Mrs. Margaret Thatcher, the Secretary of State for Education and Science, when she visited Leeds yesterday.
Mrs. Thatcher was due to attend a dedication service and unveil a plaque to commemorate the opening of a new section at St. Michael's Church of England aided-middle school in Headingley at 2.30 p.m.
But on her way to the school, Mrs. Thatcher was told about the student demonstration waiting for her and decided to make an unscheduled change to her plans.
She went instead to pay a surprise visit to the recently-opened Hugh Gaitskell middle school at Beeston, and talked to pupils and staff.
Meanwhile, the waiting students, chanting slogans and waving banners, at St. Michael's school were told by senior police officers that Mrs. Thatcher was definitely not coming.
Inside the school, the dedication service went off as planned, but without Mrs. Thatcher and outside, the students decided to leave and staged a protest march through the city instead.
Just an hour later, when all the students had gone, Mrs. Thatcher arrived at St. Michael's, performed the opening ceremony, toured the school and talked to parents and staff.
A statement by the Department of Education and Science said: “Shortly before the Secretary of State was due to arrive at St. Michael's school, she was informed that there were over 1,000 students in and around the school, which has only one limited access road.
“Local education officials and the police informed Mrs. Thatcher that, because of this, they felt there would be interference with the opening ceremony.
“Mrs. Thatcher decided to delay her visit to St. Michael's and visit Hugh Gaitskell middle school where she met the headmaster, Mr. Harry Wanless, staff and pupils. They had [end p1] no idea she was going there.
“Mrs. Thatcher then left for St. Michael's at 3.30 p.m., where she performed the opening ceremony and addressed staff and pupils and toured the school before leaving.”
A surprised Mr. Andy Jarosz, the president of Leeds University students' union, on hearing of the ruse, said: “I think it is amazing. She had nothing to fear by coming and I feel that somebody who pursues the policies she does should be prepared to defend herself in public.”
But Mr. Jarosz said of the demonstration: “I think it is a real success, because there are representatives here from every college, polytechnic and university in Yorkshire. It is a remarkable display of solidarity in our protest against Government cuts in higher and further education.”
Earlier yesterday, Mrs. Thatcher was greeted by another protest when she arrived to open the new E. J. Arnold and Son Ltd., educational suppliers, distribution warehouse just off Dewsbury Road.
A representative group of parents from South View infants school, Yeadon, stood outside the warehouse with banners protesting what they described as the poor conditions at the school.
A spokesman for the parents said they wanted Mrs. Thatcher to know about the “atrocious” temporary classrooms their children had to work in—classrooms that were erected during the last war and are still being used.
Opening the new centre, Mrs. Thatcher paid tribute to the role played by firms like E. J. Arnold in maintaining the high standards that prevail in items like children's books.