I spent some time last week with schoolkids who were selling The Big Issue.
This isn’t some Victorian-era style new sales wrinkle, incidentally. They were involved in a project between The Big Issue and the Social Enterprise Academy to shine a light on the small businesses some school pupils in more than a dozen schools are running.
As part of it, we worked with the pupils to produce an edition they could sell in schools and their local communities.
And so, last week I was at the council office in Paisley as Mary Russell School pupils sold their editions (see page 9).
They flew through them. They also upsold by adding in the school magazine they produce. They were spectacularly good.
We should remember that out there in the everyday there are incredible people just getting on with business and working their way through
The money they made they will reinvest into buying supplies needed to run a breakfast club for pupils in their school. It’s a simple, but brilliant, circular scheme.
They knocked my socks off. Not just because they, without exception, threw themselves into every aspect of what they were doing that day, and in the weeks before it. But because they noticed something that was needed in their school – a breakfast club – and decided to find a way to deliver it.
Mary Russell School faces challenges like any state school. Its pupils require additional support. And here they were, thanks to the Social Enterprise Academy and thanks, in some small part I’m proud to say, to The Big Issue, in the middle of things, using their smarts to make things better, and picking up new skills along the way.
In total, more than 92,000 people have sold The Big Issue since 1991 to help themselves work their way out of poverty – more than could fit into Wembley Stadium.
One thing that was reaffirmed with this project, that I will not tire of repeating, is that regardless of pressures, the education system is kept buoyant by some remarkable teachers. I met a few of them through this project.
And you and I don’t have to look too hard to find some others who are facing financial pressures, yet have an indomitable desire to make sure the kids they teach have a fighting chance.
Through the magic of Twitter I discovered, for instance, there is a teacher in The Clara Grant primary school in Tower Hamlets who, facing budget cuts and realising that the children there who loved reading (all of them!) wouldn’t have books, came up with an inventive solution. She put together a wishlist on Amazon and invites people to buy a book for the kids who don’t have any.
Beyond this example, we frequently hear of teachers who are buying essential supplies, or even helping provide food.
It’s easy to get lost in the Brexit fog. It covers us.
But we should remember that out there in the everyday there are incredible people just getting on with business and working their way through.
Join me in saluting them.