Ed Balls talks Glee and Shadow Cabinet

Ed Balls with JCoSS pupils during their parliamentary session on Wednesday morning

Ed Balls with JCoSS pupils during their parliamentary session on Wednesday morning

New Shadow Chancellor Ed Balls spent Wednesday morning debating issues including recycling, school lunches and whether football is a man's game with a more youthful governing body - the student parliament at cross-communal secondary JCoSS.

Mr Balls was at the Barnet school to meet pupils from its first intake who have been elected by their peers to serve in the JCoSS cabinet.

Along with JCoSS chair Gerald Ronson, he talked to the representatives for education, health, sport and the environment.

He praised pupils for being "much less unruly" than their Commons counterparts, but was surprised to learn that at JCoSS, the prime minister handles the funds.

Mr Balls offered the group policy advice, suggesting that the health secretary run a poll about lunch preferences, and urging a PMQs-style panel session for pupils to air educational concerns.

Informed of the school's new drama group, GLoSS - inspired by the cult TV series, Glee - Mr Balls revealed himself as a Glee fan, albeit preferring Journey's original version of Don't Stop Believing to the one performed by the show's cast.

Accepting congratulations on his new job, he said it had been "a pretty turbulent week" for Labour following Alan Johnson's resignation for personal reasons. "It's a big change to be back at the economy. While I am pleased to do this, the last thing I wanted was for it to happen this way." He joked, however, that the handover of his previous duties as Shadow Home Secretary had been easy, given that his wife Yvette Cooper had succeeded him.

Mr Balls was Schools Secretary when JCoSS was being set up and was present when the building's foundation stone was laid. It was great, he said, to return to see it operational.

"For me it's the end of an exciting period, but for the school this is just the first step. Being here and seeing it makes me want to be 11-years-old again."

Praising Jewish schools for their "great passion, love of learning and drive to succeed", he was cautious in his comments about Michael Gove's free schools plan. "My problem is not the idea of new schools being set up but the idea of there being a massive excess of places at some schools and competition at others. But for a school like this there was definitely a need."

He added that JCoSS was the first school he had seen with a parliament modelled on Westminster rather than a student council. "It's very impressive - the students should make the most of it."

Last updated: 11:15am, January 27 2011