Jo Riley is charging ahead — the brisk pace of a busy headteacher. The small heels of her ankle boots clip the echoing corridors of her school. Once in her office, with its higgledy-piggledy piles of papers, decorated with postcards of book covers, photos of pupils and family, Riley’s demeanour softens as she admits to the stress and heartbreak of overseeing the primary school in Hackney, east London, that is expected to close next summer.
“I’ve said it was like a bereavement, but actually . . . it’s more like a terminal illness. Every time a child leaves, it’s another symptom . . . Actually, there is no cure and it’s just waiting. There’s been waves of anger, waves of real sadness . . . We are such a community . . . One of our core values is love.”