TRAVELLING: BARA founder Ikram Butt, Oasis Lister Academy Headteacher, Ian Simpson, and Craig Taylor, of Batley Bulldogs, have travelled to Pakistan to spread Jo Cox’s message of unity
The legacy of the late Jo Cox MP is being kept alive through rugby league after a delegation of VIPs headed off to Pakistan last weekend to launch a girls’ training initiative in conjunction with schools within Jo’s parliamentary constituency.
Headed up by the trio of BARA (British Asian Rugby Association) founder and former England RL international Ikram Butt, Oasis Lister Academy Headteacher, Ian Simpson, and Craig Taylor, of Batley Bulldogs, the project involves identifying 15 girls who will be selected from Kirklees, Bradford and Leeds.
They will be mentored by a collaboration of partners including the Chief Superintendent of West Yorkshire Police, Mabs Hussain British Army Head of Engagement, Major Marr; and Chris Green, founder of the White Ribbon Campaign, amongst others.
Ikram explained: “These girls will be trained to go into primary and secondary schools here in the UK, to coach sport activities and classroom based sessions, sharing and promoting the values and vision of Jo Cox MP. On the strength of this training, the girls will then get the chance to visit schools in Pakistan, identified during our visit in October, next year.
“During our weeklong visit over October half-term, we will meet with Pakistani government officials in Islamabad and Azad Kashmir, officials at the British Embassy, Director General of the Pakistan Sports Board and head teachers from various schools.”
The group have received support from leading community figures, including the sister of Ms Cox, Kim Leadbeater, who has expressed a desire to be part of the delegation next year.
During their ongoing trip, the trio will also distribute shirts labelled with Ms Cox’s famed quote ‘More in Common’.
“On the first Sunday of our visit, there will be a girl’s rugby tournament held in Islamabad organised by the pioneering Islamabad Rugby Club, where we will present the winners with the Jo Cox MP Memorial Trophy,” Ikram added.
“Meanwhile, the collaboration of partners here in the UK is already working towards creating an educational resource pack to be used in the schools which we hope will be embraced by our global leaders and delivered in schools on a global scale.
“Much like the Stephen Lawrence projects for students, schools that sign up and fulfil the requirements will be presented with the Jo Cox MP International Memorial Award.”
HEADTEACHER OF THE YEAR: Headteacher of Carlton Junior and Infant School, Rizwana Mahmood, has been nominated for a national prize
Head of the year
Bradford-born head teacher, dynamic and daring Rizwana Mahmood, has had a magnificent year.
Not only has she been knocking down walls in her school to make it more modern, but she has been building up a sense of community with her pupils, so that Carlton Junior and Infant School in Dewsbury is now one of the most cohesive and cultured places to learn in the area.
It’s the type of teaching that gets you nominated for prizes, and The National Centre for Diversity 2016 Awards have shortlisted Rizwana for ‘Headteacher of the Year’.
Rizwana is the only nominee outside of a college establishment in her category.
She said: “I got into teaching in 1999. Since then, I’ve been fast-tracked to leadership positions. I’ve been at Carlton Junior and Infant School for two years now.”
Rizwana has a natural eye for aesthetics and has transformed the primary school into a wisdom wonderland.
Children now study lessons under ‘brain calming’ mood lighting that pulses in gentle blue and green colours. Classrooms have become more open plan, with glistening glass doors and walls.
Rizwana added: “For my MA, I studied accelerated learning and social engineering and the conditioning of the brain. I looked at peaceful environments.
“When I joined the school it was dark and dingy. It was painted in cold colours. To me, this had an obvious impact on behaviour. So I removed the walls and painted the place in lighter colours… eventually the entire building will be neon and glass, which I know will make a difference.”
Rizwana loves the diversity in the community and staff – and how they embrace all of the cultures and beliefs she strongly advocates.
“It’s important to embed British values into our children and helping them understand that - just by respecting other religions and cultures - doesn’t mean you’re losing your own identity,” she said.
“My position as a Muslim Asian female in a leadership position is quite a privilege, and allows me to drive that agenda. When I joined the school, what I used to hear from my predecessors was that the parents would not engage and they didn’t allow children to take part in the Nativity and Easter plays. Now we have a high level of engagement.”
UNDER THE LIGHTS: Rizwana studied social conditioning for her MA, and introduced brain-calming lights to her school
Rizwana finds that her school’s success is thanks to being more empathetic with both children and parents.
“It’s a matter of experiencing what they experience, moving to the other side and seeing what they see. What is key is that greater level of understanding. Parental engagement is a major highlight for me.”
Before Rizwana became headteacher, the numbers of pupils applying to the school had dropped significantly.
She said: “We got onto it straight away with a high-level marketing programme and we’ve now got waiting lists. The types of clientele we are getting now are professionals. People are actively seeking out the school and we have thousands of hits on our website a day.”
The school is doing plenty of things right, but it will take time to change the community as a whole.
Rizwana is resolute: “We will get there. It’s bite-size work.”
The pupils have a brand new uniform which features crisp white shirts and an inspiring new logo, the vision statement ‘dream, aspire and achieve’.
“Ofsted have said that they rarely go into schools where the vision is alive and children and staff are breathing and living it,” said Rizwana, “that’s what you’ll see here. If you ask any child they will reiterate the mantra of dreaming, aspiring and achieving.”
Carlton Junior and Infant school is completely child-centred.
“Everything is focused on the child and then we move outwards,” she said. “We try and rectify where things have gone wrong in their lives. We have a very strong pastoral team which engages with disaffected families.
“That’s the brunt of our work. We have got to get the child emotionally right before we can get them to function academically.
“I am a big believer of strong pedagogy rather than expensive resources. I give my staff strong, cutting-edge teacher training. The best resource in the classroom is the teacher. If the delivery and pedagogy isn’t right, if that parting of knowledge isn’t there, then how can children flourish?”
There are future plans in place for a wellbeing centre and the staff plan to convert up into the loft.
“This is not a faith school; we celebrate everything. Our children play key characters in Nativities and Diwali, Buddhism and Islamic traditions are all equally celebrated. I’m going to keep on giving that message to parents that tolerance is the key for a better tomorrow,” Rizwana concluded.
For pupils at Carlton Junior and Infant School who are lucky enough to have Rizwana at the helm, tomorrow will no doubt be neon bright.
A local headteacher has been given an A* grade for her work at a Huddersfield school which has been officially rated as Outstanding for the past eight years.
Hawa Bibi Laher OBE has already been honoured by the Queen for her services to education and earlier this month she was confirmed as the recipient of the ‘Silver Pearson Teaching Award’ for ‘Headteacher of the Year in a Primary School’.
AWARDED: Mrs Hawa Bibi Laher OBE received the Silver Teaching Award for ‘Headteacher of the Year in a Primary School’ for her work with Huddersfield based Spring Grove Primary School
Mrs Laher, originally from South Africa but residing in Mirfield, has been at the Spring Grove Primary School since 1997 and took over the reins as headteacher in 2004.
The single form entry school has more than 200 pupils and has been commended by Ofsted as one of the best primary educational establishments in the area.
During Mrs Laher’s time at Spring Grove she has worked closely with the local community to make it excel in the area with students from all backgrounds attending.
This latest award is a prestigious accolade, which will eventually see Mrs Laher visit the House of Commons for Celebratory Tea, yet she insists that the greatest part for her was the recognition she had received from her staff.
“To be put forward for an award by my colleagues was the highlight for me,” she said. “It meant far more to me knowing that they believe in me than actually getting the trophy which I am very proud to receive.
“A school is not just about children it is about staff, parents and the community as well. I’m only as good as my staff and I see it as an award for everybody involved with Spring Grove.”
PROUD: Pupils from Spring Grove Primary School are all smiles after their head teacher was commended for her services to education, staff pictured Ms Debbie Kelly, deputy headteacher, and Mrs Hawa Bibi Laher, headteacher
Mrs Laher added her praise to the rest of the school, without which ‘this award would not have been possible’.
“It really is a lovely, amazing school to work at,” she added.
“All the pupils are so polite and well behaved but that is also because of my fantastic team of staff and teachers who only want the best for every single child.
“I am very lucky to be headteacher here and grateful to everybody for helping us become recognised as the outstanding school which we are.”
Deputy Headteacher, Debbie Kelly, put her colleague’s name forward initially for the award and says she more than deserves all the plaudits that come her way.
“Bibi is an outstanding leader and role model,” she said. “This is a much deserved award recognising the dedication she has given not only to our school but to all the partners with whom we work.”
Mrs Laher was presented with a trophy at the school in a special assembly on Monday 19th May and is scheduled to visit the House of Commons on the 24th June.