A reception for children and teachers from Bonns Fünfte School

group_bonnI really should be out knocking on doors and will be shortly but I didn’t want to miss the opportunity to welcome this group to Oxford from our twin City of Bonn.  The group consisted of Ursula Dreeser, the headteacher of Bonns Fünfte School, about 15 children and one other staff member.  I prepared a short speech of welcome and my good friend from Bonn, Ursula Hassel, did a nice straightforward translation.  I am not a German speaker so I was grateful to my colleague at work Katherine, for helping me rehearse it.  Another work colleauge, Marko, came with me as a native German speaker as I knew I would struggle with small talk with the children after the speech.  He did a great job!

Here’s what I said: “Liebe Schülerinnen und Schüler aus Bonn,

herzlich willkommen in Oxford! Ich hoffe, ihr hattet eine gute Reise. Es freut mich, dass ihr unsere Stadt besucht und ich begrüße euch sehr herzlich im Namen unserer Stadt und unseres Stadtrats. Ich heiße Tony Brett und bin Mitglied des Stadtrats und stellvertretender Oberbürgermeister. Die Oberbürgermeisterin, Frau Dee Sinclair, lässt euch sehr herzlich grüßen und bedauert, dass sie heute nicht hier sein kann.

Wir befinden uns hier im Oberbürgermeistersaal des Rathauses. Dieses Rathaus wurde vor hundertzwanzig (120) Jahren gebaut und ist das dritte Gebäude an dieser Stelle.

Die Aufgabe der Oberbürgermeisterin in Oxford ist es, den Stadtrat bei feierlichen Anlässen zu vertreten, Werbung für die Stadt zu machen und die vielen ehrenamtlichen und sonstigen Organisationen in Oxford zu unterstützen. Eine wichtige Aufgabe der Oberbürgermeisterin ist es auch, die Städtepartner¬schaftsprogramme zu unterstützen. Und deshalb freue ich mich, dass ihr aus unserer Partnerstadt Bonn nach Oxford gekommen seid.

Ich hoffe, dass ihr während eurer fünf Tage in Oxford viele interessante Dinge erleben und viel Spaß haben werdet. Oxford ist eine Stadt mit einer langen und interessanten Geschichte und es gibt wirklich viel hier zu sehen. Besonders schön sehen unsere alten Gebäude in der Sonne aus; deshalb hoffe ich, dass sie in den nächsten Tagen öfter mal scheint. Viel Freude wünsche ich euch auch in der West Oxford Community Schule.

Wie ihr in der Stadt sehen werdet, gibt es in Oxford viele Universitätsstudenten, und viele von ihnen machen gerade ihre Prüfungen. Ihr werdet sie an ihren schwarzen Gewändern erkennen, die sie während der Prüfungen tragen müssen. Manche von ihnen haben auch eine Nelke an ihr Gewand gesteckt. Das ist eine Tradition hier in Oxford. Bei der ersten Prüfung tragen sie eine weiße Nelke, bei den mittleren Prüfungen eine rosafarbene und bei der letzten Prüfung eine rote Nelke. Schaut in den nächsten Tagen mal, ob ihr sie entdecken könnt.

Ich habe heute einen deutschen Freund aus meinem Büro mitgebracht; er heißt Marko und er spricht wesentlich besser Deutsch als ich. Gerne könnt ihr ihm Fragen zur Stadt Oxford, dem Bürgermeisteramt oder zu eurem Besuch hier stellen.

Und nun wünsche ich euch ein paar wunderschöne Tage und viel Spaß hier in Oxford.”

threeThe school party came over from Bonn this morning by train (including Eurostar) and were in good spirits.  We had a little reception with tea, coffee and soft drinks in the Lord Mayor’s parlour and then I showed the children and their teachers the Council Chamber and the Main Hall of the Town Hall.  The children asked lots of intelligent questions and I was grateful to have a translator present in Marko.

The group is staying in central Oxford for five days and has two mornings at West Oxford Primary School planned as well as lots of sightseeing in and around Oxford.  I hope they have a really great time!

Here’s what I said in English: “Hello students from Bonn and welcome to our City of Oxford. I hope you had a good journey. It is very good to have you here and I am happy to welcome you on behalf of our City and the City Council. I am Councillor Tony Brett, the Deputy Lord Mayor of Oxford and our Lord Mayor, Councillor Dee Sinclair sends you her best wishes too but can’t be here today.

We are in the Lord Mayor’s Parlour in Oxford Town Hall. The Town Hall is an historic building built nearly 120 years ago. The current Town Hall is the third on the site and its foundation stone was laid in 1893 by the Mayor Thomas Lucas.

You are going to be in Oxford for five days so I hope you have many interesting visits and fun experiences. Oxford is a City with a really interesting and long history so there is lots to see here. I think our buildings look particularly lovely in the golden summer sun so I hope you’ll see some between now and Friday! I wish you an enjoyable time with West Oxford Community Primary School too.

Oxford has a lot of students and many are taking examinations at the moment so are dressed in the uniform called “sub fusc” that they have to wear for them. You might see them wearing a flower (carnations) too. The tradition is that they wear a white flower for their first exam, a pink one for all those in the middle and a red flower for the last one. Do look out for them!

I have a German friend from my office with me here today, Marko, and he speaks much better German than me! If you want to ask him anything about the City, the Lord Mayor or your visit, please do.

I hope you have a wonderful five days in Oxford and enjoy yourselves greatly. Welcome again to our City!”

Jewish Cultural Fair – Lag B’Omer

Jewish Cultural FairI enjoyed opening this festival today and it was especially good to do as it is the first time Oxford has seen a Jewish celebration fair.  Rabbi Eli Brackman welcomed me as he has been heavily involved in the organisation that the Oxford Chabad Society has done for the event.  I was introduced by the Town Crier of Oxford, Anthony Church.  Was was glad he had his bell and loud voice with him!

There are many fairs and festivals established in our City so it’s great to see a new venture to celebrate Lag B’omer, an ancient Jewish holiday.   Lag B’Omer is celebrated on the 33rd day of the period between Passover and Shavuot and is meant to be a day of celebration during the 49 day period of contemplation and spiritual preparation for the giving of the Torah.

challahI’ve said this before: One of the wonderful things about Oxford for me is the great diversity of faiths and cultures and today’s celebration was certainly a very welcome addition to that. I hope it is the first of many such successful fairs.

There was lots of music at the festival and was really pleased to see a harpist Fien Barnett-Neefs and and the Klezmer band She Koyokh. The music really helped to make a great carnival atmosphere in the sunny weather.

There were two food stalls and they were both incredibly popular.  I had a delicious falafel sandwich.  There were also crafts stalls and on one of them there was the chance to make Challah bread.  I had a couple of attempts and they’ve turned out actually quite well!  There was also pottery painting and candle making, a book stall and a Jewish Scribal Stand.  There were even pony rides for children!

Also at the event was the Oxford Jewish Heritage Exhibition. A lot of work had gone into putting it together and it is generously sponsored by the heritage lottery fund. It tells a fascinating story of the history of Jewish people in Oxford from mediaeval times and I enjoyed reading it.

Young Enterprise Oxfordshire Finals

enterpriseI was invited to attend this event in two capacities tonight, as Deputy Lord Mayor and as Chair of Governors at Oxford Spires Academy. It was held at the prestigious Saïd Business School of Oxford University.

I attended and took Sue Croft, our Principal at Oxford Spires, with me.  I was delighted that the Oxford Spires team won the best trade stand award and that we were one of only two state secondary schools in Oxford who had got that far in the competition.

The evening had started with exhibition stalls from the nine Young Enterprise Projects that were presenting at the evening and there were some very good stands that looked very professional.  THe evening progressed to the main lecture theatre where each of the nine groups got 4 minutes to present their work.  I was hugely impressed at all the talks and heard some excellent ideas, excellent presentations and really amazing business results from these groups of young people.  It was exciting to see so much passion in people who will surely be the entrepreneurs of the future!  After this I gave a very short speech, thanking all the young people for their excellent work and brilliant presentations and I also reminded them not to let their academic school work suffer as they’d not get too far without good qualifications.  I also handed the participation certificates to all the teams.

After breaking for drinks and networking, and another chance to see the stands, we went back to the lecture theatre for a useful keynote talk by Timon Colegrove, the Chair of the Oxfordshire Institute of Directors.  He made a very important point about never, ever, belittling people for their ideas in business and I think that’s really important.

The main awards were then announced and awarded – the main award went to an excellent business called Toucan, that was sourcing and selling high-quality knitwear from within and to the UK.



You can read lots about the Young Enterprise secondary programmes on their website and this video is very good:



Presenting a NACE award to Horspath C of E Primary School

I had the pleasure today of attending a celebration assembly at Horspath C of E Primary School as the Lord Mayor of Oxford is just off on some town-twinning business in Bonn then Leiden for the next few days.  I was really thrilled to be sharing in celebrating the fact that School has achieved the prestigious NACE Challenge Award for excellence in provision for able, gifted and talented pupils (on the 12th of February this year).

Emma Coleman, Munaza Dogar and me with the award

The assembly was attended by a large number of children, many teachers and the Head teacher, Emma Coleman. Proud parents, grandparents, relatives and carers were there as well as governors and Karen Burnham from NACE.  The children played some music, read some poems in French, demonstrated some karate and showed some art, among other things.  There was also a band that played at the start and finish of the assembly.

It was an honour to present the award to Munaza Dogar, the Chair of Governors and I felt we had to have the Headteacher in the picture too!  Munaza also did a great speech and presented the Headteacher with a nice bouquet of flowers as a thank you for all her hard work.

The Challenge Award for Excellence is rigorous and takes years to achieve and is awarded by NACE, the National Association for Able Children in Education, a leading national education organisation and registered charity established for over 30 years. NACE provides advice, training and support for teachers, including The NACE Challenge Award Self-Evaluation Framework which Horspath C of E Primary has used to audit and plan what it provides for all pupils in the school.

Horspath C of E Primary is the 303rd school in the UK to achieve the Award, which puts it on the national stage for excellence. With about 16,500 in total that puts it in the top 2%.  The Challenge Award is given for High Quality work by the whole school, teachers and governors in challenging all students, including those with high abilities, to achieve their best and for students to rise to that challenge.

Thousands of primary and secondary schools today are using The Challenge Award Framework to develop their work. Assessors scrutinised the school’s portfolio of evidence against criteria and spent a day in school, observing lessons and interviewing pupils, teachers, parents and governors.

Assessors were impressed by the school leadership which has embedded the robust systems to meet the needs of able learners and to challenge all abilities throughout the school. Assessors said:

A commitment to and passion for challenging all learners permeates Horspath Primary School.
..all children ….. are challenged and inspired to achieve their full potential.

Pupil behaviour is exemplary and conducive to developing learning; they are engaged in lessons whether working in groups or independently; they understand themselves as leaners and have exceptional work ethics.

Lessons are well planned against high level learning outcomes, which are continually shared with pupils. Challenge for all was embedded within the lesson content

As Chair of Governors at Oxford Spires Academy I am delighted to see this excellent work going on and really do congratulate all involved on behalf of Oxford City Council and the whole City. It couldn’t have happened without hard work by pupils, teachers, parents and governors and is a fantastic team achievement. I hope that this process, the Assessors comments and the Award will encourage all involved in the  to continue to do well and that it will go from strength to strength a a leaders in primary education.  It’s a great example to primary schools everywhere!

(Photo by kind permission of Richard Hughes)

50th anniversary of the Nuffield Orthopaedic Centre League of Friends

LOF 50I attended this event today to thank all the League of Friends volunteers, on behalf of the City, for all their work.  Sir Jonathan Michael, the Chief Executive of the OUH/NHS Trust also gave a speech and who will be unveiled a commemorative plaque for this event.

LOF at the NOC started with  a small tea bar and has grown magnificently to the present shop with its excellent range and a trolley service to wards with newspapers and confectionery etc.  I know it is a great comfort to patients and plays a very real role in their positive experience here and their recovery.  Some patients have no other visitors so a friendly LOF visit can have really positive effects on clinical outcomes.  The total of the excellent work this League of Friends has done since 1964 is incredible.  In 50 years its volunteers have:

  • Gifted £1,126,200 to the hospital
  • Buttered and filled 3 million rolls
  • Served over 5 million drinks
  • Given 500,000 man-hours of time (worth over £3,000,000 at minimum wage!)

These are great achievements and a real credit to the generosity and kindness of LOF volunteers at the hospital.

Dignity action day with the National Pensioners Conference

Dignity Action Day PosterI attended this event today as Deputy Lord Mayor and was very pleased to open it with a few words of support and thanks.  It was a joint event of the Oxfordshire Unison Retired Members branch, the National Pensioners Conference and the Oxfordshire Pensioners Action Group.

The most inspirational speaker was Rodney Bickerstaffe (pictured), a former president of the National Pensioners Convention, and I really enjoyed his message and the passion with which he delivered it.

We all know that we are an ageing nation – thanks to improved lifestyles and improved health care people are living longer. Many people who are past working age give a huge amount to our City and beyond in the stunning amount of voluntary work they do and I am hugely grateful for that.


I firmly believe that those of us of working age or younger have a duty to ensure proper dignity for older people all around us. Dignity throughout life is so important to health and well-being and it gets no less important later in life. Any type of age-based discrimination is utterly unacceptable in our society and I think the Dignity Code encompasses that extremely well.  The Dignity Code is an excellent guide for everyone in any interactions they have with older people and I hope will be extremely useful – I will certainly be using it in my future thinking and planning as a councillor.

As I think it’s so useful, here’s the Dignity Code in full:

The purpose of this Dignity Code is to uphold the rights and maintain the personal dignity of older people, within the context of ensuring the health, safety and well being of those who are increasingly less able to care for themselves or to properly conduct their affairs.

This Code recognises that certain practices and actions are unacceptable to older people, such as:

• Being abusive or disrespectful in any way, ignoring people or assuming they cannot do things for themselves
• Treating older people as objects or speaking about them in their presence as if they were not there
• Not respecting the need for privacy
• Not informing older people of what is happening in a way that they can understand
• Changing the older person’s environment without their permission
• Intervening or performing care without consent
• Using unnecessary medication or restraints
• Failing to take care of an older person’s personal appearance
• Not allowing older people to speak for themselves, either directly or through the use of a friend, relative or advocate
• Refusing treatment on the grounds of age

This Code therefore calls for:

• Respect for individuals to make up their own minds, and for their personal wishes as expressed in ‘living wills’, for implementation when they can no longer express themselves clearly
• Respect for an individual’s habits, values, particular cultural background and any needs, linguistic or otherwise
• The use of formal spoken terms of address, unless invited to do otherwise
• Comfort, consideration, inclusion, participation, stimulation and a sense of purpose in all aspects of care
• Care to be adapted to the needs of the individual
• Support for the individual to maintain their hygiene and personal appearance
• Respect for people’s homes, living space and privacy
• Concerns to be dealt with thoroughly and the right to complain without fear of retribution
• The provision of advocacy services where appropriate


Carols with the Mayor of Abingdon

abingdon carols 1I had a great time this evening singing carols with the community in Abingdon.  It was a carol service with a difference in that it was held in the Aroma Coffee shop in the centre of town.  We were treated to some music by the Abingdon Society of Bell Ringers before the service started.  I joined Sam Bowring, the Mayor of Abingdon, and some

of the members of Abingdon Baptist church for a good sing and some traditional readings.  The coffee and cakes were pretty good too!

abingdon carols 2


Opening Oxford’s Christmas Market

christmas marketI was  pleased to be able to open the Oxford Christmas Market today at its new location on Broad Street after a long campaign to get it allowed to be there.  It consists of about 40 stalls with all sorts of exciting food and Christmas gifts.  From what I can see it all looks to be really high quality and as far as I can see there is no amplified speech or music so it should happily co-exist with local colleges, businesses and residents.

Christmas Markets are a wonderful tradition and while this one is not new to Oxford, it is new to Broad Street and I wish it a really successful and joyous time here.  It’s great to have it so near to the Covered Market, another jewel in Oxford’s crown, and I sincerely hope both markets will be of mutual benefit to each other at this time of Christmas shopping both for presents and provisions.

I’m very grateful to everyone who has been involved in making this event happen – all the council officers, the Broad Street Stakeholder Group who have been so helpful and constructive in the planning of this event and particularly to Nicole Rahimi, the person whose inspiration and vision has made all this possible. I also want to thank surrounding colleges, residents and businesses for being so tolerant of this event right on their doorsteps. I do hope it will be a success from now until 22 December and that everyone will be able to go about their day to day business without being disturbed – this particularly applies to all the sixth formers up in Oxford for University interviews at this time!

parentsI’m grateful also to all the traders who have taken up stalls in this market and to those who have helped build such a lovely set up. I do hope many people from Oxford and surrounding area will come along and enjoy the magical atmosphere. Local choirs and bands will perform Christmas carols throughout the coming 10 days, adding to the festive feel!

It was really good to have my parents up at the event too.  Here we are eating churros and chocolate!  Photos are courtesy of Dad.

Opening of Oxonia International University Network

This afternoon’s engagement was to welcome guests to the launch and name unveiling of a new International University Network.  I felt honoured to be among so many distinguished guests and delegates from Higher Education Institutions from over 10 countries, including Oxford and the UK.  I was impressed to see so many vice-chancellors, masters, provosts, presidents and rectors from across the globe at the launch as  it’s a good sign of international support for and gravitas of the network.

oxoniaThe event launched a brand new university network that will enable members to collaborate and share resources as well as have a UK platform that will help them increase the profile of their institutions internationally. This should be of great benefit not only to those institutions but to the communities and countries that they serve.  I am told that the network was founded as a result of international delegates attending an Oxford Academy for Education and Development (OAED) Leadership in Higher Education Programme in May and their wish to forge stronger links with each other, internationally, both with new organisations and also with OAED as the provider of services to the HE sector overseas. That’s a pretty impressive timescale and it’s great to see the start of something new and exciting like this. I hope that many more institutions will see the benefit of joining the network to partner with like-minded organisations for the development of higher education.  I’m pictured with Dr Clark Brundin (centre), the inaugural honorary Chancellor of the Network and with Dr Moghaddam, the Chair of OAED.

I was delighted the next day to to be forwarded a lovely email from the PR manager to the Lord Mayor’s PA saying “Please pass on our sincere thanks to Deputy Lord Mayor, Councillor Tony Brett for officially opening the Oxonia University Network yesterday. The delegates and guests were very pleased to meet him and we were very re grateful for his kind words. The event was a great success and we have received applications to join the network already. OAED would very much like to thank Tony and your team for your support for our event and we would like to wish you all a very happy Christmas and a prosperous new year.”

That sort of thing make such a difference!

Hidden Spire: How lucky are you?


I have the great privelege of attending the first night of the show at Crisis Skylight Oxford in partnership with Arts at the OFS tonight and I must say I really enjoyed it.  It was a moving performance with about half the cast being fmo Oxford’s homeless community.  There were some really thought provoking moments, some good acting and some good music.  Highly recommended.  Rather than take it from me, I take the liberty of adding an extract from a much better review by Helen Ward of Daily Information.

“Despite a running time of just over an hour, How Lucky Are You? is a surprisingly thought-provoking and ultimately positive exploration of the theme of change and upheaval. Drawing strongly on their own experiences, the homeless members of the company have spent last four months working with a professional creative team to create a unique piece of theatre – an experience director Liz McBain described as “inspiring”.  Another member of the company told Daily Info, that the piece reflects the way in which homeless people often come together to form intensely caring and supportive families.”