TWO political heavyweights visited Thurrock to learn more about two of the borough’s newest and most prized-assets.

Michael Gove, the Secretary of State for Education visited the Ockendon Studio School while Labour’s shadow culture minister Harriet Harman was at the High House Production Park on Tuesday.

Mr Gove described the Studio School in Ockendon - which is one of just 27 of its type in the country offering academic and vocational qualifications as well as paid work placements, linked directly to employment opportunities in the local area to 14 to 19-year-olds - as “fantastic”.

While Ms Harman, who was just down the road at the High House Production Park in Purfleet described the Royal Opera House set design workshop and £13million Backstage Centre, as an “inspiration”.

Both the High House Production Park and the Ockendon Studio School opened in 2012. They are entirely seperate but both provide bold, new ways of improving pupils job prospects by attempting to bridge the gap between working life and education through hands on, work experience learning.

Conservative cabinet minister Mr Gove, speaking of the Studio School, which neighbours the Ockendon Academy in Eriff Drive, said: “It was fantastic. I was incredibly impressed.

“Jackie Doyle-Price [Thurrock MP] had explained how it worked and had come about and seeing is believing. Jackie more than anyone has contributed to the establishment of the studio school at the academy.

“And the reason why she is such a big fan, which i’ve seen for myself today, is because it provides the perfect environment to get good qualification, work placements and then good jobs.

“Studio Schools like this one can play a bigger role in learners bridging the gap between learning and working. That helps prepare our children better.”

Ms Harman, who joined said: “The High House Production Park is really inspiring and really thought provoking in terms of how we can build on the great success of how this has been done in Thurrock and how that good practice can be followed in the rest of the country.”

Thurrock Gazette:

Harriet Harman, pictured second from right, with Labour colleagues at the Backstage Centre

She added: “The Royal Opera House building here is absolutely stunning. World class work goes on there. It offers great prospects to local people and gives a chance for more media facilities to be built.

“It’s extending opportunities to people who might not otherwise have a got a job relating to the Royal Opera House.”