I have taught English Language and Literature in schools, sixth-form colleges and at Huddersfield University, along the way reaching the dizzying heights of Vice Principal of Oldham Sixth Form College.Most significant in terms of The Magic Makers was my time as Head of Department at Pendleton College in Salford, the largest centre nationally for the new English Language A Level for several years. One element of the writing assessment was Writing for Children a creative
process enhanced by the study of child language development.Guided by the principle that if you can’t do it you shouldn’t teach it, I increasingly focused my own joy in writing upon children’s stories and poetry – eventually publishing Beastly Bites. The accompanying Teachers’ Notes, closely linked to the National Literacy Strategy of the time, made this a popular text in local schools.
Poetically ambitious, The Magic Makers waited for a number of years for an illustrator who would be as attentive to its natural imagery as Kim Gay had been to the humour of Beastly Bites. An extensive exploration of illustrators on the internet eventually brought me into contact with Nicola Dennis, whose subtle use of colour and brilliant evocation of the wonders of nature made her the ideal artist.
I continue to write stories and poems for children. My book, The Boy with Four Hats, is an imagined narrative of what inspired Dickens to write Oliver Twist. The latest publication, Leafcutter, has been written as a commission for Clive Farrell, whom The Independent dubbed ‘Lord of the Butterflies’. He co-owns two butterfly farms and has worked tirelessly to preserve butterfly species. His Butterfly Farm in Stratford-upon-Avon houses a large colony of leafcutter ants.
An important source of inspiration is the family next door, whose two daughters receive their own story or poem every birthday and Christmas. I hope to publish some of these in two separate anthologies in a year’s time.
I taught English Language and Literature in schools and colleges from 1979 until 2014 when I retired from Executive Headship at Batley Girls’ High School. Whilst working with John at Pendleton College I spent a year’s sabbatical at North Cheshire College developing resources for the English Language A Level for which I was a Chief Examiner. I co-wrote a successful textbook Your Own Words. Much of the content it covered is now incorporated in of KS2 SPAG tests surprisingly!I was Head of English at the transformational Sixth Form College at Oldham – another shared venture with John – but returned to schools in 1998 as Curriculum Deputy and then Head Teacher in different 11-18 Secondary Schools. My last school’s results went from 29% 5 A-C to 99.5 % during my tenure and we achieved Outstanding across all aspects in our 2013 inspection.
Since ‘retiring’ I have done a lot of consultancy work, creating a through school from three underperforming Infant, Primary and Secondary schools. I work with a large Teaching School Alliance in Bradford and am Chair of Trustees in a MAT of 6 primary schools. I badge and deploy Specialist Leaders in Education with a particular emphasis on literacy and school improvement but the work I enjoy most is doing classroom based workshops and teacher and leader training.
My main passions in life are the written word, art, nature, photography and my family.I graduated from Edinburgh College of Art with an honours degree in Art and Design, having majored in Glass and Silversmithing.I went on to set up two successful businesses which I ran in tandem:Shots Picture Services where I became the principal industrial photographer for Bradstone and ECC Quarries. My work was used for much of their advertising material and I ran a photographic stock library on their behalves. In Depth Design which was a glass engraving business supplying both industry and individuals with unique pieces of art. The pinnacle of this part of my career was supplying four large individually engraved windows for an award-winning garden at the Chelsea Flower Show.
Following the birth of my children I put my artistic career on hold to be a creative mum.
As they grew up I gained various qualifications in computer graphics which I now put to good use in the book layouts that I do for In Depth Design Publications.
In recent years my artistic aspirations have moved from glass to painting and illustrating. I have been featured in magazines for my silk painting prowess and I have produced two children’s books for Dorset Wildlife Trust using these techniques. Bizzy the Blenny and Jolly the Oystercatcher have both been well received.
My illustrative work for John has focused mainly on the use of coloured crayons because I wanted to show children that they could produce fun pictures with the minimum of inexpensive materials.
The Magic Makers was seen and appreciated by Mr Clive Farrell who then commissioned Leafcutter for the Butterfly Farm at Stratford upon Avon.
I hold at least one annual exhibition of larger pieces of artwork that I produce for my own pleasure using various materials including, oils, acrylics, silks and graphite where I am fortunate enough to both sell and win awards.