Meeting Mr Balls.

I am very much hoping that today, at around one thirty pm at the House of Commons, I will get to shake the hand of schools secretary Ed Balls and even receive a generous cheque from him.

How and why? Well, the parent body of our local school, Queens Park Community School (which my two daughters attend) is one of several contenders for a national gold star award as part of the National Council of Parent Teachers Association (NCPTA) annual awards scheme. We are one of four finalists in the ‘Making a Difference in the Life of a School’ category.

QPCS has been shortlisted for the The Write Stuff (TWS), the writers programme that myself and a group of QPCS parents have been running, in conjunction with the extremely tolerant English department, for the past three years. As a result of TWS a stream of brilliant novelists, non fiction writers, feature and news journalists, publishers, script writers and illustrators have come into QPCS and talked to students from year 7 to sixth form about aspects of their craft.

It is the kind of visitor programme that many students in private schools, beneficiaries of at least twice the pupil per head resources compared to state school students, can take for granted but which schools in the state sector have to struggle to set up and sustain.

I have sat in on some of these sessions and they have been truly inspiring; and while getting ‘ better exam results’ was never the aim of The Write Stuff programme, QPCS students are doing better at English, as judged by GCSE and sats scores. But the main idea of TWS was – and remains – to help enrich the life and minds of the students, to show them what the life of a writer is like, to help them think about how a story or poem or cartoon or feature article or a book is made and to encourage everyone to read as well as write.

I’ve no idea if we at QPCS will win or if I will get to shake the hand of Mr Balls, who is handing out the award which includes a generous cheque (which we will plough straight back into TWS initiatives planned for next year) but for the moment, I am simply proud of what we, a group of determined parents, have achieved in one London comprehensive.

Below the official press release from the NCPTA

M E D I A R E L E A S E

19 March 2009

LOCAL SCHOOL SELECTED AS NATIONAL FINALIST

THE PARENTS, TEACHERS and FRIENDS ASSOCIATION (PTFA) of Queens Park Community School (QPCS), has been selected as one of 14 finalists in the National Confederation of Parent Teacher Associations (NCPTA) Gold Star Rewards scheme.

The WRITE Stuff (TWS) project, submitted in the Changing the Life of the School category, is an innovative programme, which complements the work and wider literacy efforts of the school’s English department. TWS, which is run entirely by parents, liaising closely with the school, brings writers, poets, journalists and other creative professionals into the school to speak to the students and to run workshops.

Mike Hulme, Headteacher, said “The whole programme of workshops, talks, lectures and in some cases, personal conversations, between experienced writers and enthusiastic students continues to be a resounding success throughout the school and wider community. It’s the people that make a difference in this case, and the gifted visitors we have welcomed into our school have made a tremendous impact on the students in a number of ways”.

The PTFA has been invited to attend a presentation ceremony, being held at the House of Commons on 29th April 2009, where two winners in each of the three Gold Star categories, will be announced. The winning projects will each receive a £1,000 cash reward.

“The Gold Star Rewards are a way for the NCPTA to recognise and reward the everyday achievements of PTAs around the country and to share this good practice with other schools,” said Yvonne Treves, NCPTA regional adviser. “It’s a real achievement to be selected as a finalist, as the standard of entries this year was extremely high, we wish the PTFA the best of luck” concluded Yvonne.

-ENDS-

Note to editors: The Gold Star Rewards, held annually, aim to recognise and reward outstanding achievement in three categories: Achievement in Parental Involvement, Changing the Life of the School and PTA Fundraising Achievement. Two £1,000 cash rewards are made in each category. Details of the NCPTA Gold Star Rewards 2009 can be found at www.ncpta.org.uk

For further enquiries please contact: Jane Galbraith, NCPTA membership development manager jane.galbraith@ncpta.org.uk / 01732 375464