Well, it's a over a decade since I first visited City of School, as Head of Steel Pans for the Music Service, and realised that the local rumours about it being a rubbish school were unfounded. In particular I was impressed with Ms Hardwick's Music Department. And a couple of years later, I put my money where my mouth was and sent my two youngest children there.
This is some of the speech I would have made [and here's just two of the most incredible pieces of artwork from 2011:
"I wanted to make a speech this afternoon about how sad I was to leave City and look back at my moments, but actually . . .
It's hard to leave what I felt I never really joined. I kinda just slipped in. I came to be head of Music for half a year, including for when the Ofsted came. It was a couple of weeks before the Ofsted. I spent the weekend putting up displays and looking out my old Foxwood lesson plans.
The Ofsted inspector said I had low expectations of the kids. I looked earnest and kept my mouth shut. Low! There was one Year Nine class who I thought would all kill each other and was amazed that they even stayed in their seats. I had only met some of the classes once before and actually I thought, in the circumstances, I had been brilliant [I think it's safe to use that word again.].
After giving me the obligatory hard time, the kids were even more annoyed when I told them I wasn’t staying, so when Donna arrived we put it to school that it would be helpful for the transition if I stayed on . . . then when Bridget arrived . . and Carrie-ann. . . . In fact it’s taken a double dip recession [whatever that is!] to get rid of me!
When Margaret Hamlet asked me to stay on, I felt I couldn’t because my own kids were then there and in Years 8 and 9 and both heading towards Music GCSE. But I would have loved to. The palpable racial harmony, and the various musical talents and experience of both the immigrant and local children – so exciting.
Then there were extreme highs and extreme lows – highs included winning the UK World Music Award for the Sparrows which included 50% City and ex-City students, and overall included 19 different nationalities [hence the flags – see youtube: Leeds Silver Steel Sparrows play Royal Albert Hall]; lows were being banned from the LGHS/COLS version of Carnival Messiah and from Leeds Carnival last year [I felt that I had let the kids down]; highs again were winning through to the national Festival for Youth five years running and then being asked to bring both bands [Sparrows and Doves] to the Festival of Britain at the Southbank last July. Now that was massive. Two bands out of five from whole of UK included children from Little London, Holbeck, Hyde Park, Chapeltown and the rest! This is us, outside the Festival Hall and inside playing with the other bands.Another high was when I realised that PE, Science and EAL could tell what time of year it was by how good, or bad [!] the pans sounded.
My latest high is called Maryam, Rukhsar, Raheem, Samera and Rayshan, and somehow or other, I hope it’s not the last I have seen them."