And if it is time to ponder the e-word, it must be Tower Hamlets LBC. And not just because Wellington Primary there has hit the headlines as the 'most improved' school in the country. That story has rightly been well-trumpeted and is testament to the efforts of a far-sighted head, classroom assistants, teachers, parents and no doubt the children themselves. But speaking at a seminar on the new political economy of the public sphere recently, I was forced to start with a different tale of Tower Hamlets education - the collapse of the private finance initiative scheme covering 27 schools when the contractor Ballast went broke.
The picture painted by the Unison branch secretary on the site could not have been less like the shiny happy vision of Wellington painted in the Guardian. Ballast defaulted on the school renovation contract leaving some playgrounds looking like building sites, cranes in situ, mud and safety hazards everywhere. Meanwhile children were in danger of being air-lifted out in portacabins being reclaimed by a sub-contractor and PFI chaos reigned.
In the middle of this was a typical Unison shop steward tending grazed PFI knees. Let's call her Josie - a teaching assistant, living in the Poplar regeneration area and fighting to get a good local Unison remodelling deal for teaching assistants in her own school. Josie is the 'new political economy of the public sphere' personified. An undervalued, low-paid female worker, under pressure to become an 'active citizen' on the estate she lives on and surrounded in the workplace by the fallout from yet another privatisation failure.
Head of local government, Unison