Hackney’s “Great Black Hope” You Tube notoriety and the free school debate


YouTube heroine – Pauline Pearce

Some times you can’t please people all of the time although in my case I feel my recent vexed Hackney peeps, misunderstood me or things got lost in translation. I gave an example a couple of posts ago, here is the second.

Pauline Pearce aka The Hackney Heroine , lashed out at me about another opinion I made, regarding her and the folks behind Hackney New School.  It began when someone questioned her suitability as an advisor considering a recent allegation from a grubby tabloid.

This was news to me until I read a comments on my blog and an online news site for Goldsmiths College . The response I got from Pearce was she had a “feeling who was behind it”, and told me of “all the haters who wanted to see her fail, when all she wanted to do was help mankind”. Curious as to why she decided to get involved with the Hackney New School project, I asked her, but all I got  again, was an earful of tweets about  “haters” and sad people, wanting to bring her down.

so what should i do,stop breathing to please them they woke up today wanting to distroy me i dont even know these sad people. [sic]

Nobody brought up colour, but she became very defensive then tweeted the following to me and others:

i dont have any problems with white people as half of my family r white so plz lets not go down that road

some folk want me to vanish they write bad press about loads of people so 1 person trying to mess me up does not scare me.

kind lady.ive had nothing but stress 2day over something im proud 2 be a part of,the fact im in the press again upsets people. [sic]

As you can see, “Hackneys Heroine” also has somewhat of a persecution complex.

The reason I questioned her choice of being a mouth piece for the Free school people, is because I know how distraught she was when a tabloid revealed a video of her arranging a drug buy last Autumn.

Before her latest ‘venture’ Pearce had complained to me that while she had become a celebrity of sorts, it wasn’t bringing in any serious mullah “Papers don’t pay, I’m a celeb by name, but not finance” [sic]. She went on to mention starting up her own foundation; “not sure if I should make it a charity/foundation or what. got a team of peeps who are willing to b involved but they like me r a bit crap at computer stuff they want to get their hands dirty” [sic]

Getting an office was on her agenda as she was tired of people showing up at her home at all hours. Along with Pauline Pearce’s newspaper interviews, several appearances on radio, TV and most notably the Conservative annual conference in Manchester, came attention from people on her estate and nearby community.  They needed help with their parking tickets, local church ladies needing help to raise funds for their churches, and even a young boy she claims wanting out of gang life are just a few of the requests. I never did get an answer about what she said to the young boy wanting a way out from the gangs.

I can imagine It’s quite heady stuff having media attention for something ‘heroic’, Drivers whisking you off to TV stations, mixing with with well known people in the Green Room and of course being in front of cameras and being beamed across the world.

Then as suddenly as it started it stopped. Not only was Pearce becoming yesterdays news, it was soon followed by a tabloid  filming her arranging a drug buy from her flat in Hackney, as she regaled the undercover buyer of her media tales of how one TV station had further plans for her. A few weeks later, she tried to explain her way out of it with an interview with the Hackney Gazette saying she arranged the drug transaction out of fear.  Pearce said she was shocked to see the man and rang the cannabis dealer just to make him go away. She admitted smoking weed for “medical reasons” because she has a bad back.

She told the Hackney Gazette, she had relocated to Hackney to escape a gang in her home town of Hitchin, Hertfordshire, but is now in fear of her life. So much so that since the tabloid sting, she had to install a panic button, claiming  “I feel like a fugitive”. Fugitives install  panic buttons?

I call bull crap on this one. Why?  If you knew some bad people wanted you, would you go on a media blitz which included a revolving door of journalists in your home? Grinning from ear to ear and doing the unforgivable – smooching Boris Johnson at every photo opportunity? Anyway, Pearce is not a happy camper and is talking of taking her grievance with the newspaper, to the Press Complaints Commission. Good luck with that one darlin’.

Her salvation from pending obscurity recently arrived in the form of the people behind the Hackney New School in desperate to prove they are not an elitist white middle class clique, chose her as their mascot head black cheer leader for their initiative. Ironically Pearce admits she believes she’s being used “for her profile”  When asked what she wanted the school to focus on, her reply was: “It’s always the brightest brick in the block that gets pushed so much more, but the child sitting at the back that might not be quite so bright, those are the ones that I’m concerned about.”  Is it just me or is there something very Forest ‘Gump-esque’ about her response and her accidental claim to fame?

Having had a not very successful start one can only assume they reached out in desperation to Pearce who jumped at the chance to make headlines again. But it looks like their effort to recruit her was in vain. The campaign isn’t going anywhere anytime soon. Hackney parents and school teachers are unanimously rejecting  the idea of a private “free school” in Hackney, and it looks like it just may have fallen flat and failed as miserably as the last souffle I attempted. But don’t tell that to Andreas Wesemann, head boy  a corporate financial advisor, who is head of the Hackney New School Steering Committe and holds the highest disregard for members of the National Union of Teachers while describing the NUT as “medieval” and a job protection racket.

Andreas Wesemann

The core make up of the group is an impressive list of accomplished Hackney borough residents with degrees from Cambridge and Oxford and even an Ivy League professor, who splits her time between Hackney and Connecticut, where she lectures at Yale. The only other black person they brought in is a flashy young man named Nathaniel Peat (resident borough unknown) who touts himself as a motivational  speaker, life coach and pyramid sales person, amongst other things..

So far I yet have to see either Nathaniel Peat or Pauline Pearce pontificate on the merits of a free school in Hackney, and from reports from the last meeting, the hope that Pearce would influence ethnic minorities wasn’t evident. Wesemann and his posse have until the end of February to submit their application to the Department of Education, who will look less favorably on their initiative at the lack of interest and participation from parents in the area.

Last month, Wesemann told the East London Lines: “We’ve been working very hard to have a composition in our group that reflects the pupil population demographic. We’re trying to reach the bottom 10 per cent. They don’t read the Times, or have access to computers  We need to use whatever mechanisms are necessary.”  Looks like he still has a long way to dig to reach his bottom 10 per cent.

If the current debate on state funded free school leaves me feeling a little uneasy, blame Architect and Hackney resident, Pascale Scheurer who’s bid for a free school in Hackney last year, lost wind. What she wrote in a piece in an Architecture publication left me, and I assume others, wondering what the real motives are behind the free school believers initiative.

A popular school can add £15,000-20,000 to house prices within its catchment area. So whether you have children of school age or not, may I suggest you keep a close eye on the free schools debate over the coming year. These semi-independent, state-funded schools could alter property values in your area. The government’s ambition to create 220,000 school places within a decade also offers opportunities for contractors, consultants and investors.

I’m leading a parent group setting up a free school in Hackney, east London. Based around creative entrepreneurship, it’s the curricular counterpoint to Toby Young’s classics-based west London free school (page 34). The driver was the lack of choice for Carmen and Anaïs, my two-year-old twins. There is an “outstanding” school round the corner with the creative ethos I want but, thanks to the idiocy of the admissions process, my girls are more likely to end up in a sink school further away. So either we take that risk or move:
a Hobson’s choice familiar to many parents.

If you were involved in Building Schools for the Future (BSF), either as a contractor or a consultant, you may be wondering how to apply your expertise to deliver free schools. From an inside perspective, the emerging programme is a chance to create intelligent change and innovation. There is a lively online community of parents, educationalists and consultants who are supporting each other’s applications, and applying the knowledge gained during BSF.

What say you?





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