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!”

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:



Oxford Canal Heritage Project Launch and Open Day

I had great fun this morning with the Oxford Canal Heritage project.  We started with an opening at the start of the canal on Hythe Bridge Street where I gave a short speech and thanked those involved for the work done so far in the project.


We moved on later to the Old Fire Station where we had coffee and lovely biscuits made by Restore.  Tony Joyce gave a short speech as chair of the Civic Society,  as did I.

Some might think that canals are really only relevant to the past but this could not really be further from the truth – canals are often vibrant arteries of life in our Cities and Oxford’s is certainly no exception.

Not only is Oxford canal a green lung and recreation space for many of Oxford’s people and visitors it also contributes to the economy of our City in so many other important ways. Transport is easy along the canal towpath and along the canal itself for water-borne vessels. People use the canal for walking, jogging, cycling, angling, boating and many other pursuits. Many enjoy a simple wander along its towpath in this green and pleasant part of Oxford absorbed by the myriad fascinating and wonderful sights and sounds along its banks.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAYou’ll probably be aware of how acutely short of housing Oxford is. Of course the canal helps here too as there are many boats moored that are actually the homes of Oxford people who are contributing greatly to our City in all sorts of ways. I think this is a great way to live and be housed and will certainly do all I can to make sure the Council supports canal-dwellers as well as it possibly can.
It is good that plans to redevelop the Jericho Boatyard are progressing and I think that will be very important in preserving the traditional Oxford Boating community as immortalised in booked such local author Phillip Pullman’s Northern Lights. There are many other great books about Oxford Canal such as “A towpath walk in Oxford” by Mark Davies and Catherine Robinson.

Canals are often not as well-known as rivers in Cities, and are seen as poorer second cousins. The Thames, or Isis has certainly been making itself known recently with its flooding earlier in the year but today is about taking some of the limelight for the canal. I’m so pleased that the Canal Heritage project has done, and is doing, so much good work to challenge that relative obscurity and bring the canal back into the public eye, back up the agenda of so many people and organisations.

It’s good to hear the vision of the project in ensuring that the canal becomes a distinctive and well-known destination for locals, students and tourists and visitors. I think opportunities to learn about the canal’s industrial heritage while enjoying its natural environment will be very attractive to all who live in, study in, work in or just visit our City. I am delighted that future visitors will be able to find this gem more easily thanks to a dedicated gateway, improved signage and accessible information presented in a range of formats from information pillars to audio trails. This is great work!

Oxford is a City that is good at community involvement so I am pleased to see that this is also an aim of this work. Knowledge, skills and interests of many local communities from Wolvercote to Jericho have been invaluable in getting it this far. I am grateful to all their input and that from the boating community, neighbourhood forums, community associations, schools, faith groups, businesses and shops. It’s a great team effort!

If you haven’t had a look at it yet I recommend the excellent website that has been set up about this project. It has a wealth of resources including maps and a great audio guide. See www.oxfordcanalheritage.org


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)

World Literacy Summit

I had the great pleasure of being part of the opening ceremony of the World Literacy Summit 2014 today. The ceremony was at the Sheldonian Theatre with a lunch afterwards in the famous Divinity School of the Bodleian Library.  Speakers included Dr Anthony Cree, the Chairman of the Summit;  Mr Nigel Portwood, the CEO of Oxford Unviersity Press; Professor Sally Mapstone, the Pro-vice chancellor for Education of Oxford University; Mr David Perrin, the CEO of the Summit, Linda Bakkum, a Youth Ambassador and Ms Haifa Fahoum Al Kaylani, the Founder-Chairman of the Arab International Women’s Forum.  We also had a recorded message from HRH Princess Laurentien of the Netherlands, the patron of the event and a strong advocate of literacy.

world literacy

The theme of the summit was Literacies: the Power to Change. The aims were impressive:

  • Exploring the key issues impacting literacy around the world;
  • Analysing the latest literacy delivery methods and teaching approaches;
  • Increasing awareness of the global literacy crisis;
  • Creating opportunities for each other to collaborate in supporting literacy;
  • Revisiting and updating the Oxford Declaration.

775 million people worldwide are illiterate so it is quite some achievement to bring together more than 70 literacy experts, politicians, civil servants, teachers, business leaders and charities to take some positive action about this.  These events are a great opportunity to hear inspiring insights from world leaders in the field and to enjoy some high-powered debating that will help to shape policy into the future.

Although the conference is global, I am extremely pleased to know that it also shows great local commitment.  Many are engaged in the vital work of supporting literacy in Oxford itself and it’s great that the summit involves Oxford students at University level and below.  It’s good to know there is an ongoing programme of advocacy after the summit, that it sponsors.

Oxford has some of the best education in the world, but sadly it is also home to many children experiencing quite severe deprivation.  Many come to education with extremely low levels of literacy and a significant number do not have English their first language.  As a governor at Oxford Spires Academy I have first-hand knowledge of just how important literacy is to our young students as the gateway and enabler to successful learning. At Oxford Spires we are very proud to ensure that every teacher is a teacher of literacy so I was delighted to be able to take Debbie Clark, our literacy coordinator, along with me to see the life-changing work summits like this encourage.  I know Debbie caught up with some old friends and had some good conversations after the speeches.

I hope the rest of the Summit is a huge success – it certainly deserves to be, as literacy is so important to everyone as a vital enabler to future success.



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!

Opening RADECS 2013

This evening was a fairly brief event for me in that I was invited to the Town Hall to the opening drinks reception of RADECS 2013, a large conference that took place in Oxford this year.  It is the The 22nd European Conference on Radiation and its Effects on Components and Systems.    My brief was to give a bit of history on the Town Hall and the Civic office of Lord Mayor. Did you know that The present Town Hall is the third on the site and its foundation stone was laid in 1893 by the Mayor Thomas Lucas and without mention of the first builder – a Mr A Chappell of Lambeth – who was declared bankrupt in October 1893. The present design by Henry T Hare was built by Messrs Parnell and son of Rugby for £94,116 (note, Oxford’s average house price is now £356,299) . The official opening of the Town Hall was on Wednesday 12 May 1897, by HRH the Prince of Wales Edward VII.

The Lord Mayor of Oxford is a very old tradition, with the first recorded names going right back to the 12th century. There is a long unbroken line of Mayors of Oxford right up until 1962 when the dignity of Lord Mayor was granted to Oxford by Queen Elizabeth ll.  In Oxford, The Lord Mayor represents the City at civic and ceremonial events and spends a great deal of time promoting the City, the key initiatives of the City Council and supporting a wide range of Oxford based voluntary and other organisations.

The Lord Mayor generally carries out in excess of 300 engagements each year. These engagements cover a wide spectrum of events from high profile Royal visits and leading the City’s annual Remembrance Sunday service, to small community group meetings and charity events.  The Lord Mayor also chairs meetings of full council.

Graduation at Kidsunlimited day nursery


This was certainly one of my more unusual engagements!  I was invited to attend the graduation ceremony for all the children leaving the Oxford Business Park Kidsunlimited Day Nursery. I’d never heard of graduation for four year olds before but it was a really lovely ceremony. It started with all the little people singing a some songs to the parents and staff and then I was invited to say a few words and present the leaving certificates with kidsunlimited teddy bears.  I decided that a short speech would be needed for such a young audience so spoke briefly about the importance of giving children a good start in their education and thanked staff and parents for doing that. Then I produced a song for parents to sing with me, to their children and the staff.  It goes like this (to the tune of row, row, row your boat):

Clap, clap, clap your hands,
Graduation’s here.
Now we must say goodbye.
To friends we’ve had this year.

Clap, clap, clap your hands,
We’ve worked the whole year through
Now we must say goodbye,
To you, and you, and you.

Clap, clap, clap your hands,
Graduation’s here.
Now we, all will go,
to primary school next year!

graduateI’m pleased to say parents did a good job of singing along!  I presented the certificates one by one to the children and then we had a lovely cream tea provided by the nursery and I had a good chance to chat with some of the staff and parents about their experience of the nursery and the children.  I think it’s great to mark this important change from nursery to primary school in a child’s life with this sort of ceremony and really enjoyed it.

(picture provided by the parents of the child in the foreground and used with their permission)


Discover Oxford’s hidden heritage during Archaeology Day

ArchaeologyThere is a treat in store on Sunday 14th July when you are invited to look below the surface of Oxford and see what lies beneath! During Archaeology Day, there’s fun for all ages on offer with a range of demonstrations, hands-on activities and mini-lectures covering a series of fascinating subjects.

Archaeology Day runs from 11am-4pm on Sunday 14th July. All activities are free so there’s no need to book! Why not come along to Oxford Castle and discover the hidden gems?Activities include: Coil pot-making, Medieval tile-making, Pot reconstruction, Tattoos and Finger-weaving. There will also be a demonstration by the Wychwood Warriors Oxford University Re-enactors

Archaeology Day is a joint collaboration between Oxford Preservation Trust and Oxford Castle Unlocked. Both teams have been successfully working in partnership since 2009 to ensure this free annual event has become an interesting and popular event.

What not turn up?  You can contact Lindsay Kell at Oxford Preservation Trust on 01865 242918 or  l.kell@oxfordpreservation.org.uk if you have any queries.

Topping out the Weston Library

weston1I attended the topping-out ceremony at the Weston Library today, which will emerge from the shell of the refurbished New Bodleian to form a wonderful special collections Library late in 2014. I was invited as ward councillor and was I think the only member of the City Council there. There was an excellent speech by the Vice Chancellor or Oxford University, Professor Andrew Hamilton and he and Dr Sarah Thomas, Bodley’s Librarian unveiled the commemoration stone to mark the event.

weston2Hamilton spoke about how important it is to keep Universities like Oxford moving forward and developing and he said how important the philanthropy of donors is to such progress. He thanked the City Council, via me, for all it support and work with the University in our City, which I think was pretty gracious given how the whole project was slowed down by the City’s refusal to allow a book depository to be built in Osney, thus necessitating its construction in Swindon. 7 million books were moved there from the New Bodleian before the refurbishment to form the Weston Library could start!

I hugely look forward to seeing the finished product, and hopefully the regeneration of the East end of Broad Street including sorting out the awful traffic lights there that don’t even have a pedestrian phase!