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Passing judgement

Back in the heat of July, Moira Jenkins joined two other “judges” at the NASUWT HQ in Birmingham to embark on quite a difficult process…

Think Global supports the teacher union in its annual ‘Arts & Minds’ competition for schools, which aims to promote and celebrate cultural diversity. Hundreds of entries are sent in each year from schools all around the country. NASUWT staff whittle these down to about 150 pieces of art and written work (I really don’t know how they do this – it must be incredibly hard!). Then the guest judges (including me this year) have to decide which ones out of these will get a prize.

There are a few different categories: primary, secondary and special; group work and individual work; art work and creative writing. We judges had never met before, and we had just one day to come to an agreement on all the prize-winners. It was a really rewarding process and inspirational to see at first hand all this talent from the nation’s young people.

We all had our favourites, I think… The ‘equality sunshine’ picture that seemed to light up the room. The ‘I am not a barcode’ image based on The Scream. The ‘multicultural Manchester’ group work overflowing with different faiths, ethnicities, restaurants and shops. The raps, the songs, the poems, the imaginative stories. The beautifully detailed pencil works and mosaics. There was a fair bit of friendly argument and persuasive talk between us, before we reached our final decisions.

Summer passes, the weather cools, the experience fades from memory and then we judges are invited to hand out prizes at the Arts & Minds awards ceremony on 14 October. The prize-winners and their teachers (plus some parents) have had a nice day out in London and a tasty lunch before the ceremony at a posh hotel in St James’s. The prize-winning pieces have been framed and are all on display around the lobby. The loveliest aspect of the event, for me, is to connect individual students with the art work and written work that we scrutinised all those months ago… especially the self-portraits!

The final decision for the overall prize-winner has been left in the hands of Gok Wan, who can’t be there on the day, but announces his decision via a film clip. I think he had an even more excruciating time making his mind up than we did!

The picture above shows Ciaran Brazier, a Year 8 pupil at Speedwell Centre in Blackpool, receiving the prize as overall winner. You can see all the prize-winners, with their entries, on the NASUWT flickr pages. Do take a look, it will brighten up a dull autumn day.

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