School Rules Ok?

Rupa Huq remembers her childhood days

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Rupa Huq addresses school council pupils

Rupa Huq with School Council pupils, head Mr Am Rai and Deputy Head Mrs Maton

Rupa age 9 (right) with sister Konnie Huq (left) in 1981 in Montpelier uniform, and

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For the next few months (until May's Election) Ealing Central and Acton parliamentary candidates will introduce themselves and write about issues that affect them.

Labour's Parliamentary candidate, Rupa Huq goes back to school...

As a mum myself the school run is a daily reality for me but it was in my capacity as Labour Parliamentary party candidate for Ealing Central and Acton rather than as a parent that I returned to my old school, Montpelier Primary, just north of Ealing Broadway last week to appear before the pupils of the school council.

It was a great experience to be back at the institution I attended daily from 1976 – 1983 as well as going back to visit Notting Hill and Ealing last year where I studied from 1983 – 1990.

My time at Montpelier spanned various changes. At the start there was a uniform, including a shield logo t-shirt, checked summer dress and tie, but by the end it was pretty much anything-you-like-as-long-as it’s purple. My memories of world events were mediated through my experiences there. I remember for example us all cheering the older brother of a fellow-pupil Helen Johnson when he made a guest appearance in assembly: he was on a pause back home in Ealing in between being one of “our boys”: a Falklands hero.

Whilst my young sister Konnie of Blue Peter fame is the Huq most renowned for her televisual career, in 1980 I was filmed by the BBC, then eight years old at Montpelier for the schools broadcast Look and Read.

The show’s sci-fi feature The Boy From Space became a cult classic and the BFI re-released the DVD last year due to popular demand. Indeed my brother in law Charlie Brooker tracked it down and got it for Christmas for me, which was a real treat. My visit last week took in a guided tour including of that same classroom where the footage was shot. Until my invitation last week, that was the most recent memory I had of my primary days.

I went back to my senior school Notting Hill and Ealing last year with Stephen Twigg MP, the one-time youthful slayer of Michael Portillo at the 1997 election and we spoke to the 6th form. The subject up for debate was votes at 16 on that occasion and the students were very animated with passionate opinions coming out on both students. Labour is proposing to widen the franchise to 16 year old if elected to a government that I’m hoping to be part of. I’m due back at the school next week for a careers evening. 

At Montpelier students from all the year-groups asked wide-ranging questions with obvious enthusiasm with a smattering of budding Paxmans in there. I was impressed by all. The school council is a great institution as pupils learn about representation and democracy, running for competitive election to get on there. With each class sending pupils to it, it's a microcosm of the House of Commons.  

Among the topics that arose were the A and E closures locally and lots of questions about my own time as a student there. I’m the middle child of three so there was a Huq at Montpelier for many years from 1970, when my older sister Nutun went, onwards. Indeed her own youngest son my nephew left only last year, so there was a Huq connection right up to 2014. As my sisters and I are mums of boys (my mum jokes that she got 5 grandsons from 3 girls) the same cannot be said for the all-girls’ Notting Hill. If I am elected there will be again as I will strive to represent both the whole Montpelier and Notting Hill community in parliament so will always fight for the best for them.

Education across Ealing borough is rapidly expanding. Acton has seen the new Ark academy behind the old swimming baths with another Ark primary opening later in the year. Both at Notting Hill Girls and at Montpelier however I’ve seen a mixture of continuity and change. The fundamental ethos of each, to encourage educational excellence in a diverse environment, remains the same. But under the visionary headship of Am Rai of Montpelier and Lucinda Hunt at Notting Hill both the buildings have expanded dramatically and become very popular. In both cases there’s only been one head-teacher in between my days there in the 1970s/80s and the current head.

Since I hung up my school-satchel and subsequent graduation from Cambridge University I’ve turned my hand to a few things. I’ve gone on to be a published author of three books. I’m currently a university lecturer and have worked along the way as a factory-packer in Park Royal industrial estate, at Ealing Central Library, for Ealing Council, at University of West London after beging my working life at WHSmiths, Ealing Broadway. However it was not only these workplace experiences but also Montpelier and Notting Hill and Ealing who made me the person I am today.

You can take the girl out of the schools but you can’t take those schools out of the girl.


Rupa Huq


29th January 2015