Youngsters ready to play on

A close partnership between a Leeds school and a team of accomplished musicians is set to hit a high note in the New Year.

Students and staff at Bruntcliffe School in Morley are currently benefitting from the classical expertise of Opera North's in-house band of talented virtuosos.

Every year, the internationally-acclaimed Leeds-based company chooses a local school to work with for a whole 12 months under its 'Play On' educational programme.

In 2010, Bruntcliffe was able to benefit from the venture thanks to funding from the Government-backed Find Your Talent initiative, which has now been axed as part of the Coalition's bid to cut the national deficit.

But the good news is that Bruntcliffe pupils and teachers will carry on working in harmony with members of their "Orchestra In Residence" until spring 2011.

Under the project, individual musicians who play in the 46-strong orchestra commit several hours of their spare time every week to raising awareness among young school students of the joys of opera and classical music.

Bruntcliffe's head of music Sarah Shaw said: "We applied for funding at the beginning of the year and have been very lucky to benefit from this fantastic opportunity.

"What we've been aiming to do is to involve as many of our students as we can and also raise the profile of our excellent facilities for instrument playing and learning.

"So far, we have had pretty much one new project a month, with something happening all the time. On one day in October, every single member of Year 7 had the opportunity to have a go on a different instrument.

"There has also been a brass and percussion masterclass for gifted and talented students and a special Year 6 Open Evening performance."

Bruntcliffe pupils recently enjoyed a behind-the-scenes backstage tour of Opera North's headquarters at Leeds Grand Theatre and the Howard Assembly Rooms.

After Christmas, they will be working with the orchestra members and in-house composer Eve Harrison on their very own opera, which will be put together in a matter of weeks.

The story is as yet unwritten but will be loosely based on the world-famous operatic tragedy Carmen, by Georges Bizet, which is Opera North's major New Year production.

Members of the Opera North Orchestra have also offered their expertise to the Morley Community Orchestra, which is based at Bruntcliffe School.

Every year, Opera North holds hundreds of workshops across Yorkshire as part of its extensive and long-established educational outreach programme.

Its Christmas production, The Adventures of Pinocchio, is being staged tonight and December 29 and 30.

Pupils get up close... ...with flying monsters!

OVER 200 Leeds school pupils were invited by education charity FILMCLUB to attend a free festive screening of Flying Monsters 3D – the eagerly awaited Sir David Attenborough documentary which gets its TV premiere on Christmas Day.

They gathered at the Vue Cinema in The Light Shopping Centre, on The Headrow, for the sneak preview of Attenborough's film about pterosaurs, jet-size dinosaurs with 40-foot wingspans who took to the skies 200 million years ago.

The groundbreaking film, complete with cutting-edge effects by the Harry Potter team, is to be broadcast by Sky's new 3D channel.

Primary schools on the list of VIP viewers included Cottingley, Tranmere Park in Guiseley, Ingram Road in Holbeck, Moor Allerton Hall in Moortown, Strawberry Fields in Garforth and Beechwood in Seacroft.

The FILMCLUB charity was set up in 2008 and so far over 600 schools are signed up to the national initiative, which offers schools the chance to see all kinds of film classics.

Laura's award for top English mark

AN exceptionally talented student has received a national accolade from examination bosses in recognition of her A-level achievements.

Laura Jayne Ayres, formerly a pupil at the Grammar School at Leeds, got the highest mark out of 57,000 students across the country taking A-level English Language.

Her A* grade was rewarded with a silver medal and framed certificate at a ceremony in London organised by the Assessment and Qualifications Alliance (AQA), the largest examining body in the country.

Laura Jayne, 18, is currently taking time out at home in Roundhay before embarking on a three-year Linguistics degree at Queen's College, Cambridge.

She will be awarded the title of joint National Top AQA A-level English Candidate alongside another student from Cheshire.

The super-bright sixth-former is also a keen fan of drama and says she hopes to pursue her acting ambitions once she gets to university.

She said: "I am already a member of the National Youth Theatre and I would love to work with Cambridge Footlights and the Royal Shakespeare Company.

"After my degree I hope to travel the world teaching English then have a career in the British film industry."

Jane Pratt, acting head of English Language at the Grammar School At Leeds, said her former protege is exceptionally gifted.

"Laura's enthusiasm for and interest in English went well beyond the requirements of the examination.

"She has a flair for language, writing some exceptionally detailed essays and investigations, while also being creative and fun," she said.

The annual awards are co-sponsored by AQA and companies with an interest in the field of education. The A-level and GCSE award-winners come from approximately 1.5 million candidates.

The AQA is the largest A-level and GCSE awarding body in the UK, awarding 45 per cent of GCSEs and 44 per cent of A-levels.

Stock exchange placement beckons

STUDENTS, lecturers and business leaders gathered in Leeds this week to award a major prize.

The Claire Mascall PR Prize was given to Leeds Metropolitan University student Christine Quigley, who won 1,000 and a bluechip work placement with the communications team at the London Stock Exchange.

Runners-up Phie Hall, 21, and Natalie Smith, 22, each won 500 and work experience placements with PR consultancy MCG and Leeds Metropolitan University's Centre for Public Relations Studies.

Established in memory of Claire Mascall, who had a 35-year career in corporate relations – latterly as head of corporate affairs for the London Stock Exchange – the award is open to all third-year PR degree students at Leeds Met.

This year's contest asked students to prepare an essay which examined the art of ethical practice in global PR.

Professor Anne Gregory, director of the centre for PR Studies and Pro-Vice-Chancellor of Leeds Met, said: "There was some sound research and analysis from students and the winning entry looked closely at ethical practice as a business model rather than a publicity tool.

The awards were judged by Professor Anne Gregory, Carol Arthur, chairman of Yorkshire and Lincolnshire Chartered Institute of Public Relations and Christine Mortimer, director of MCG PR.

Ian Marwood of Sentio Partners  Picture: Giles Rocholl

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