Wednesday, 12 January 2011

History making Parliamentary Poet comes to Leeds City Library

Picture caption: Rommi Smith courtesy of Leeds University

A poet who made history by becoming the first ever Parliamentary Writer in Residence will be at Leeds Central Library giving a free workshop to school pupils this Friday (14 January).

Prolific and critically acclaimed poet Rommi Smith, who studied creative writing and lives in Leeds, will work with around 20 children from Little London Primary School to explore the words and language they use in the playground today.

Now Poet in Residence for the Romantic Poet, John Keat’s House, London, she will create various pieces of poetry using the children’s ideas to be displayed in the library’s Exhibition Space as part of the Evolving English Exhibition – looking at 21st century dialects and how language changes through time.

The exhibition running until Thursday 27 January includes material from Leeds City Council’s Yorkshire dialects collections featuring theatre playbills, maps and changes in place name spellings, words from different cultures in more common usage today and a translation of a 17th century play.

A voice bank will also be available until Monday 16 January allowing people to record their favourite Yorkshire phrase and words for posterity.

Parliamentary Writer In Residence Rommi Smith said

“One way of leaving your input on history is through words. I'm delighted to have the opportunity to work with young people from Little London to explore the words and the stories and histories of those words that are part of their heritage.”

Rommi Smith is a poet and playwright who works to fuse spoken word and music together. As the Parliamentary Writer in Residence her work centred on the bicentenary of the abolition of the slave trade act.

Leeds City Council’s executive member for leisure Councillor Adam Ogilvie said:

“We’re very grateful to Rommi for agreeing to give this workshop and treating these very lucky pupils to a lesson from a such an accomplished wordsmith.”

Rommi has been commissioned to create new work which has been broadcast extensively on BBC Radio 4, Radio 5 Live, Radio 3, BBC Arabic Services Radio and BBC World Service. She is a contributor to and performer on numerous programmes including: Late Junction, Woman’s Hour, Fine Lines, The Verb and Poetry Please!

Notes to editor:

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Countdown to Ice Cube launch begins

Picture caption: Radio Aire's Rich Williams with Councillor Adam Ogilvie and events team members Paul footitt and Craig Shackleton

Leeds’ coolest attraction the Ice Cube opens for business this Saturday (15 January) testing the balance and grace of an expected 70,000 visitors.

The UK’s largest outdoor ice skating rink returns to Millennium Square for its 11th year and runs until 6 March 2011.

It will once again be offering skating lessons, which have proved incredibly popular since their introduction, provided by professional coaches for anyone fancying themselves as the next Torvill or Dean.

Spectators can watch all the action from the comfort of The Snug café overlooking the ice rink which will be proving hot drinks and snacks to help people thaw out. They can also check out the stunning Edge of the Circle exhibition of large-scale extreme winter scene images by Andy Rouse in the Gallery shop.

Leeds City Council executive member for leisure Councillor Adam Ogilvie said:

“The Ice Cube is set to be a great hit again this year. The rink’s popularity has seen it more than double in size since it first opened and it is now about the third of a football pitch.

“Even if your not keen on taking to the ice you can watch friends and family glide around Millennium Square from the warmth of the Snug café."

Leeds city council’s media partner 96.3 Radio Aire will also be broadcasting live from the Ice Cube on the opening day.

96.3 Radio Aire’s Home Run presenter Rich Williams said:

“The Ice Cube is such a great event for the city and we’re really lucky to have such a fantastic attraction in Leeds. I’ve been every year since it’s started and I can’t wait to get my skates on!”

Places on the six-week Skate UK programme aimed at beginners and improvers are limited and available on a first come first served basis only so get your skates on and book early via the City Centre Box Office at The Carriageworks on 0113 2243801 open 10am – 8pm Monday to Saturday.

Coaching sessions will take place from 9-9:45am every Saturday and Sunday morning from 22 and 23 January and those who take part will be able to stay on the ice from 10am to 12pm for free to further perfect what they have just learned.

Skaters can develop at their own pace working up the 10 levels of basic skills on the course and will be presented with an approved certificate by the National Ice Skating Association (NISA) at the end of the final session.

Tickets cost £69 per person for the whole course, and bookings close on Friday 22 January. For further details and full terms and conditions visit For further information on Skate UK visit

Organised by Leeds City Council with support from media partners 96.3 Radio Aire and the Yorkshire Evening Post, the Ice Cube is the largest temporary outdoor skating rink in the UK with over 1200 square metres of ready to skate-on real ice.

Advance general bookings, family tickets and individual skating lessons are now also available to pre-book from the City Centre Box Office.


For media enquiries please contact: Daniel Johnson, leisure communications officer, tel: 0113 247 8285, email:

GCSE results in Leeds continue to go from strength to strength

GCSE achievement in Leeds has been confirmed as the best ever with 2010 providing a record set of results.

The final figures published by the government show a total of 76.5 per cent of young people in the city achieved five or more A*-C GCSEs – up by more than nine per cent from 2009 – while just 1.5 per cent of pupils left school with no GCSEs, a 0.4 per cent improvement on the previous year.

There was also an increase in the number of young people achieving five or more GCSEs including English and maths – 50.6 per cent compared to 45.9 per cent in 2009.

The latest figures also include the government’s calculation of how young people could have performed against an ‘English baccalaureate’ which the government plan to introduce as part of their school reforms. The baccalaureate will be awarded to young people who achieve at least five GCSE’s at grade C or above including English, maths, two science, one foreign language and one humanity. Despite the baccalaureate not yet being in place, 12.9 per cent of young people would have Leeds achieved it.

Councillor Jane Dowson, executive board member for learning, said:
“2010’s GCSE results are the best Leeds has ever seen and continue the recent trend of year on year improvements. The achievements demonstrate that young people in the city, regardless of where they live, have fantastic opportunities to achieve their full potential and go on to achieve great things.

“There is of course still room for improvement and we will continue to work with schools to raise standards where necessary. When new measurements are introduced, we will work with schools and young people to ensure they have the best chance of success.

“However, these excellent final results are a solid foundation to build on and I wish everyone involved – and those who will sit their exams this year – the very best of luck.”

Professor Stephen Parkinson, chair of the Education Leeds board, said:
“Our schools continue to provide the best standard of education the city has ever seen with the overall results in 2010 better than ever before. Education Leeds has worked closely with schools to improve standards and achievements and has had a huge, positive impact on learning. I would like to congratulate everyone who has worked to make these latest results possible – our young people should be proud of their achievements.”

Nigel Richardson, director of children’s services, said:
“Young people in Leeds have once again raised the bar and provided the city with its best ever GCSE results. More than three quarters of all young people achieved five or more qualifications and less than ever left school with none at all. This is a fantastic achievement and a huge step forward for the city.

“Leeds continues to be one of the most improving cities in the country and we will work with schools and our partners to ensure this continues. We are committed to improving standards where necessary and will work closely with the schools which need our help to do this. All schools will have our full support to meet new standards to ensure that every young person has the best possible opportunities for success.”

Many schools saw large improvements in their 5A*-C including English and maths results compared to last year. Highlights include: City of Leeds, 32 per cent (12 per cent in 2009); Rodillian School, 48 per cent (33 per cent in 2009); Priesthorpe School, 56 per cent (43 per cent in 2009); Cardinal Heenan, 64 per cent (51 per cent 2009); Farnley Park, 45 per cent (33 per cent); and Allerton High School, 62 per cent (51 per cent in 2009).

There were also a number of outstanding individual school performances across the city. St Mary’s Catholic Comprehensive School in Menston achieved 84 per cent 5A*-C including English and maths and 92 per cent 5A*-C; Garforth Community College (now Garforth Academy) achieved 74 per cent 5A*-C including English and maths and 91 per cent 5A*-C; Abbey Grange Church of England High School achieved 72 per cent 5A*-C including English and maths and 81 per cent 5A*-C; while Guiseley School technology College achieved 72 per cent 5A*-C including English and maths and 85 per cent 5A*-C.

The results are the last to be overseen by Education Leeds which will merge with Leeds City Council’s children’s services on 1 April this year. There have been significant improvements in GCSE results since Education Leeds was created 10 years ago. In 2001, 39.5 per cent of young people achieved 5A*-C GCSE’s compared to this year’s figure of 76.5 per cent while the figure for 5A*-C GCSEs, including English and maths, increased from 27.5 per cent to 50.6 per cent.


For media enquiries please contact:
Jon Crampton, Leeds City Council press office, 0113 3951577

Great council chamber takeover day

The Great Council Chamber Takeover Day in action

Fifty adults with learning disabilities are set to take over the council chamber at Leeds Civic Hall this Friday, to find out how local government works.

Mencap and the Leeds voluntary sector Learning Disabilities Forum have organised this event in partnership with Leeds City Council to give people the opportunity to see for themselves how local decisions are made.

Forty seven councillors from across all the political groups represented on the council have sponsored their seats to allow people with a learning disability to get a taste of what it is like to speak and vote in the council chamber. The event will bring an unprecedented number of learning disabled adults together in the chamber, giving them the chance to talk about some of the issues that they face in their daily lives and put their questions to councillors.

******************** Media opportunity ********************

Media are welcome to attend the Great Council Chamber Takeover event on Friday, 14 January, 10am to 12.30pm at Leeds Civic Hall by prior arrangement. There will be an opportunity to take photographs and time allocated at the end to speak to delegates, organisers and councillors.
Please contact Claire Macklam on Leeds 395 1578 or email to arrange attendance.

******************** Media opportunity ********************

Deputy Lord Mayor of Leeds, Councillor Patrick Davey, will welcome people to the event and speak about how democracy works in the city, giving information about how people can contact their local councillors and where and how to vote. The event will be jointly chaired by Susan Hanley and Derek Thomas, who are co-chairs of the Leeds Learning Disability Partnership Board. Delegates will have the chance to put questions to a panel of councillors and vote on a number of issues following a presentation by Paul Williams, who has a learning disability.

Councillor Lucinda Yeadon, executive board member with responsibility for adult social care said:
“I am delighted to be taking part in this unique event, which is a great opportunity for people with a learning disability to gain firsthand experience of how decisions are made in local government, and will hopefully encourage them to take a bigger interest in local politics and use their vote.

“I strongly believe that in order to feel empowered and confident about tackling issues people need to have a good understanding about how power in the city works. I hope that this takeover day will help to achieve this and encourage people to get more involved in local politics.”

Susan Hanley, who has a learning disability, said:
“It is fantastic that people with a learning disability are being given a voice today. This is our chance to show we care about what happens in Leeds and that we have something important to say.”

Maggie Graham, community development officer for Mencap said:
“Kath Lindley from the Leeds Learning Disabilities Forum and I have worked closely with the council to organise this groundbreaking event.

"We would like to thank the councillors who supported it by giving sponsorship for their seats and for taking the time to engage with delegates and listen to their views.”

Additional info
About learning disability

A learning disability is caused during or shortly after birth. It is always lifelong and affects someone's intellectual and social development. It used to be called mental handicap but this term is outdated and offensive. Learning disability is not a mental illness. The term learning difficulty is often incorrectly used interchangeably with learning disability.

About Mencap
Mencap supports the 1.5 million people with a learning disability in the UK and their families and carers. Mencap fights to change laws and improve services and access to education, employment and leisure facilities, supporting thousands of people with a learning disability to live their lives the way they want. We are also one of the largest service providers of services, information and advice for people with a learning disability across England, Northern Ireland and Wales. See for more information.

For media enquiries, please contact;
Claire Macklam, Leeds City Council press office (0113) 395 1578

Leeds youth offending service celebrates top marks in inspection report

The Youth offending service in Leeds is performing very well according to the latest government inspection findings, published today.

Leeds scored well above the national average in all three areas inspected by HM Inspectorate of Probation – safeguarding, risk of harm to others, and reducing the likelihood of reoffending.

Inspectors examined a sample of youth offending cases from across Leeds and assessed the views of the young people who are involved with the service and their victims.

The report is scored as a percentage of work that the inspectors judged to be of high quality in each category, and the level of improvement needed.
In Leeds the results were:
Safeguarding – 84% (national average is 67%)
Risk of harm to others – 76% (national average is 62%)
Likelihood of reoffending – 83% (national average is 69%)
Inspectors agreed that the service only needed a minimum level of improvement for each category. This is the highest rating available to the inspectors, and equivalent to a grade of ‘outstanding’.

The inspectors commented that the work of Leeds youth offending service (YOS) led to reductions in the frequency and seriousness of offending by young people, and that these reductions in offending were significantly better than the average performance of other youth offending teams inspected to date.

Alan MacDonald the Assistant Chief Inspector at HM Inspectorate of Probation said:
“Overall we consider this a very creditable set of findings. We were impressed with the range of interventions provided by the youth offending services and by the way that it worked with partners to develop and provide a broad range of services to respond to the complex and varied needs of children and young people living in a large city.”

Councillor Judith Blake, executive member responsible for children’s services said:
“This positive report is a credit to a great team of people who work tirelessly to help young offenders turn their backs on a life of crime. Not only is the team helping to improve the future prospects of often vulnerable young people, but they are also supporting victims of crime and ultimately creating a safer city for us all.

“It is also very reassuring that the inspectors again noted that the work of the youth offending team is helping to reduce the number of young people entering the criminal justice system.”

The inspectors found that the majority of children and young people who are involved with Leeds youth offending service (YOS) said that the YOS staff took action to deal with the things they needed help with, including drug and alcohol use, emotional or mental health issues, lifestyle, family relationships and housing. Some young people said that YOS staff had helped them get back into school and helped them improve their reading and writing.

Inspectors also discovered that the great majority of children and young people said that they were less likely to reoffend as a result of their work with the YOS and a significant proportion said that it was because they now understood the impact of their offending on themselves and others.

The Core Case Inspection of youth offending work in Leeds took place as part of the Inspection of Youth Offending programme by HM Inspectorate of Probation.

For media enquiries, please contact:
Emma Whittell, Leeds City Council press office, on (0113) 2474713