Pride and emotion as school unveils £1.1m sixth form centre named after Jo Cox

The opening of the new Jo Cox Centre at Heckmondwicke Grammar School. Picture by Simon Hulme
The opening of the new Jo Cox Centre at Heckmondwicke Grammar School. Picture by Simon Hulme

WHEN shy and studious Jo Cox was studying for her A Levels at Heckmondwike Grammar School, she used to “sneak off home” to revise in a quiet spot away from the noise of the common room.

Quite what she would have made of the school’s £1.1m new sixth form centre, complete with quiet and silent zones for studying, as well as social space, is anyone’s guess.

On Wednesday, her parents Jean and Gordon Leadbeater and sister Kim were “proud and honoured” to be back at the school they all attended - in the former church that Kim and Jo attended Brownies and Guides in - as the Jo Cox Centre was officially named in the murdered Batley MP’s honour.

The Leadbeater girls attended the school in the 80s, when the sixth form common room consisted of a “Portkabin in the playground,” according to Kim.

“We both had a really positive experience at school,” she said.

“It’s so heart warming that people have taken such time and trouble in remembering Jo and the values that she stood for, especially in such difficult and divisive times.”

Mr Leadbeater told the YEP that just this past weekend, Mrs Cox’s son Cuillin, eight, had asked “why so many things were named after mummy”.

“We told him it’s because she was so well liked,” he said. “It’s really moving being here today. We’ve had maternity wards, community centres and even a square in Brussels named after, but this is very special.”

The sixth form centre was 18 months in the planning and is now up and running, providing a place to study, but also a place to relax, for more than 500 sixth formers.

A huge mural of Mrs Cox, with the now famous “more in common” quote from her maiden speech, hangs on a wall alongside famous words from the likes of Nelson Mandela, Bill Gates and Malala Yousafzai.

Mrs Leadbeater said she “couldn’t believe the change” in the building from when she used to bring the girls’ to Brownies.

“It looks amazing,” she added.

Headteacher Peter Roberts said Mrs Cox’s legacy would continue “for many generations to come”.

“For her being a former student and head girl, it seemed entirely appropriate to name this beautiful new facility after Jo - not just for the work she did in the community as an MP, for the work she did around the world,” he said.

“She is a real role model for all of our students. I recently had the privilege of finding Jo’s school report in our archive and she was a model student.”