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Croydon Entries Rise (Dec 4th 2001) - Another Good OfSTED Report (Nov 18 2001) - John Pops The Question (Sept 11 2001) - Death of Sir John Hoddinott (Sept 6th 2001) - Buddy Teachers To The Rescue (July 19 2001) - Let's Go To Scotland! (May 10 2001) - Excitement Building in Ireland (April 13 2001) - Warning - No Nicotine Patches (Feb 22 2001) - Jane Wins National Award (Jan 27 2001) - International Cooperation Spreads (Jan 12 2001) - First French Foray (Dec 22 2000) - Scotland's Finest First (Dec 6 2000) - Soundtrack Rights Assistance (Nov 22 2000)


Up until this weekend the entries for the Croydon Event on Thursday March 14th 2002 made it look like one of the smallest days in the south of England tour but news came in today that three more teams are joining in, bringing it to a nine-team show!

The new entries are teams from the Frogmore Community College from Yately in Hampshire (entering their 'Team Two'), Eastlea Community School from the Newham area of London and Beechwood School from Slough.

This year has seen a surge in interest from schools and colleges enquiring about or wishing to enter UK Rock Challenge - so much so that some newcomers have already indicated their early interest in entering in 2003 where they've decided they can't enter for 2002 either because they simply ran out of time or because the Events within what they considered a reasonable travelling distance from their school or college were already fully subscribed.

We look forward to seing them joining in with us next year in the ever-growing phenomenon of the family of teams and team members of the Global Rock Challenge!


Every now and then your editor goes surfing the web looking for OfSTED reports that might mention Rock Challenge and last night I managed to find another one. The report was carried out earlier this year in one of the participating schools in the south.

Extracts follow:-

  • Those students participating in activities such as "Rock Challenge 2001' are enthusiastic and well supported by colleagues and staff.
  • Parents respond well to contact from the school regarding problems and their support for teams and events, such as 'Rock Challenge', is good. Parental support is valued by staff and students and benefits students' progress.
  • (PE) Dance has considerable status in the views of the students, staff and community as exemplified by the numbers involved in the forthcoming Rock Challenge. There are a significant number and range of dance opportunities and events for students. They make a significant contribution to the self-confidence, esteem and social development of the young people.

So, once again, an OfSTED team has discovered what a noticeable difference participation in Rock Challenge can mean !

These new comments should be seen alongside some of the others we've found - click here to view them.


Those of us with fond memories of Aussie John Meade, who stage managed UK Rocka through from the start of the 1998 series through to the end of 2000 (and who even managed to get to the first UK events on the 2001 calendar as well) will be pleased to hear of the rumour that I picked up on Sunday morning and had confirmed Sunday evening.

John (in his usual quiet, shy, restrained way :)) chose an audience of 12000 or so attending the Rock Eisteddfod Sydney Premiere Grand Final on Friday night at the Sydney Entertainment Centre to witness his surprise on-stage formal proposal of engagement to be married to his long-time girlfriend Saffron Brown.

An email received from one of those 10000 witnesses tells me "It was a sound, lighting and compering triumph...." :))

Meanwhile, by kind permission of the Bankstown Express newspaper, Sydney, their report follows. Storyline is by reporter Vanessa Massey, picture by photographer John Appleyard.

SAFFRON Brown got the surprise of her life when her boyfriend proposed to her in front of 12,000 people at the Rock Eisteddfod on Friday.

The 24-year-old graphic artist had been sitting in the audience wearing her best outfit on the assumption that during the interval she would introduce her parents to her boyfriend, John Meade. Mr. Meade was the Rock Eisteddfod stage manager and had other ideas.

"Saffron and I had been talking about getting engaged for the last couple of months," he said. "It was not until I was in an aeroplane flying to the Rock Eisteddfod in Townsville that I came up with the idea of proposing to her from behind a giant diamond prop. From coming up with the idea to actually doing it, I had to tell her a few white lies along the way."

Saffron's first surprise was when during the interval her name was drawn out of a barrel for a lucky door prize. Little did she know it was all a big set up for the big question.

"I honestly thought I was going on stage for the ticket. All his friends and even the master of ceremonies were very convincing." she said. "Then the MC said 'I will stop torturing you' and from around the diamond John came out and said 'you wanted a diamond this big so I got you one I could afford.' He then asked me to marry him."

Even though she was shocked and flattered, she said her first thought was "Oh my God, he is proposing to me in cow pants!" Saffron eventually said yes "after milking the opportunity", which was a huge relief for a very nervous John.

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Everyone at the Rock Challenge and the Be Your Best Foundation wish to extend their sincerest sympathies to the family of Sir John Hoddinott who passed away suddenly on August 13th 2001.

Sir John was the man responsible for taking the decision to bring the Rock Challenge into the United Kingdom in 1996 when as Chief Constable of the Hampshire Police Force he gave it the go-ahead and his total support after one of his Police Officers (Mark Pontin) returned from a visit to Australia fired with enthusiasm for their Rock Eisteddfod.

Even after his retirement in 1999 Sir John was still involved with the event, and he believed firmly in its future.

Click here for photo

BBC Southampton News Story

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As anyone knows who has been with UK Rocka for some time, your first year as a Liaison Teacher can be quite frantic (though we all reckon it gets easier after that :)

Your school office finds that their fax machine suddenly starts to churn out page after page ... and they're all for YOU. You suddenly find that you're living, breathing, eating and dreaming Rock Challenge 24 hours a day, 8 days a week (7 just doesn't seem enough). Your colleagues sometimes seem ... less than happy (?) because you've arranged to take up to 134 students aged anywhere and everywhere from 11 to 18 out of school for a full day, the sub-list is going to be ... "interesting" (!) and (what's sometimes worse) those 134 (a) all want to go with you and (b) no threats will put them off and (c) they won't stop talking about it!!

You also find that there's no escape ... your team members seem to want to talk to you at every single moment throughout the non-timetabled day ... questions and ideas and plans ... costumes, dance routines, props, scenery ... words come tumbling out, plans get drawn. You find that all of a sudden you seem to be by far the most "approachable" teacher in the school. And your up-to-134 team members smile at you anywhere around the school, or out in the street: it's enough to un-nerve others in even the most flexible of staffrooms.

Fear not, help is at hand to see you through this strange period in your teaching career. A new entrant can now be offered the opportunity to be Buddied with a school that's already been through this "first-year" experience. A Buddy Teacher will phone you occasionally to check how you are. They can explain the rules and regs that sometimes seem daunting to the new LT. They can be available when you feel under stress or just need a calm voice from an experienced LT.

If you would like to be Buddied, contact the office (0800 801 395). If you would like to be a volunteer Buddy Teacher, contact the office!

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LET'S GO TO SCOTLAND IN 2002 ! (May 10th 2001)

At the first-ever Event held in Carlisle on May 4th, the first-ever Scottish school to take part in UK Rock Challenge (Peterhead Academy) achieved a stunning result by finishing in overall second place out of the seven teams present, many of whom have taken part in previous events elsewhere in the UK.

Following Peterhead's success came the news that Scotland is joining the ranks of enthusiasts for UK Rock Challenge and intends to hold not just one event but two in 2002!

These will take place at Aberdeen and Dumfries and expressions of interest in taking part next year are already coming in to the Rock Challenge office.

We salute Vanessa Geib (the Peterhead Academy Rock Challenge Liaison Teacher, who moved there in September 2000 from previous successful work at Healing School, Grimsby) firstly for the quality performance her brand-new team produced at Carlisle, secondly for taking along such a warm, friendly and appreciative group of students and thirdly for her untiring efforts in publicising Rock Challenge not just in Aberdeenshire but around Scotland generally. Good one, Vanessa!

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Though the recent Northern Ireland Event (Belfast) was an enormous success, news remained more sombre regarding the first-ever Republic of Ireland Event planned for Dublin but having to be "postponed indefinitely" because of industrial action there.

This has not prevented an upbeat assessment of the 2002 prospects by the Be Your Best Foundation.

BYBF member Mark Pontin said that there had been much more interest from Northern Ireland schools recently and that entries for 2002 looked likely to increase. Many schools not yet involved had taken up an invitation to send observers to this year's Belfast Event, and the RUC now had a full-time worker busily engaged in promoting the concept in the region. Liaison Teacher Eileen Watson of Ashfield Girls' High School (Belfast) came in for particular praise for spreading knowledge and awareness of Rock Challenge by booking her team to appear in other performing-arts events in the area.

In the Republic of Ireland prospects looked even more exciting. Yet to hold an Event, interest in the Republic had still grown so enormously that it looked highly likely three Events (Cork, Dublin and Limerick) could be up and running as early as 2002.

He singled out Maire O'Higgins (Liaison Teacher at Larkin Community College, Dublin - participants at Belfast in 2000 and 2001) for particular praise, describing her as a "driving force" in spreading awareness of Rock Challenge there. A working party had been formed to get Rock Challenge up and running in the Republic as early as possible, helped by a share in a grant of $ 20000 from the Australian Ireland Fund to assist the spread of Rock Challenge throughout Northern Ireland and the Republic.

"If we can hold three Events in the Republic, and one in Northern Ireland," added Mark Pontin, "we shall be able to send the top two teams from each Event through to a first-ever all-Ireland Rock Challenge Grand Final."

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UK Rock Challenge may seem to strangers to be "simply" a nationwide performing-arts competition, but at its heart it is rooted in a determination by the Be Your Best Foundation to do everything possible to enable young people to avoid or to end any dependence on the use of tobacco or alcohol products, illegal drugs or the abuse of solvents.

UK Rock Challenge does everything that it can to support the Foundation's objectives by offering what is seen as a credible and an exciting alternative to the substance-abuse lifestyle, encouraging all participants to make a personal commitment to their teams to avoid the use of those substances while they are team members.

An email last week from one school team member asked whether or not the "addicted" members of their team could use nicotine patches and/or nicotine gum in order to see them through their Event day without running the risk of expulsion if they were found smoking.

UK Rock Challenge issued a robust response: the use of either nicotine patches or gum or any other similar device is totally banned and any team member found to be using them faces exactly the same consequences as if they were found breaking any of the usual restrictions.

(This means that the team member(s) concerned would be immediately suspended from the Event day while the team concerned would be dropped two places in the final rankings and thus denied any chance of progression to any further Events that year.)

Be Your Best Foundation member Dr Marguerite Howick commented that there can be no excuses: nicotine is the most addictive of the addictive substances available and to introduce nicotine by means other than through smoking cigarettes encouraged that addiction and did not relieve it.

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One event eagerly awaited each year on Australia Day is the announcement of the national Australia Day Awards, including Australian of the Year, the Community of the Year, the Australian Achievers and the Young Australian of the Year.

In the Australia Achievers category, the National Award Winner of The Collins Bookseller Arts Award is former Rock Eisteddfoder Ms Jane Miskovic, of New South Wales.

Aged 24, Jane graduated from the NIDA directing course and also holds a Bachelor of Advanced Science in Clinical Psychology. She has choreographed many large-scale events including the National Rugby League Grand Final, the 1998 Global Rock Challenge Tour to Europe and Carols in the Domain. Jane had over 2000 dancers under her charge in the Sydney Olympic Games Opening and Closing Ceremonies and choreographed the finale for the Pacific School Games involving 10,000 dancers.

Jane is currently in creative development for a new work with Sky Works Theatre Company and will be co-producing and directing a tour of 300 young performers to the USA and Europe mid-2001.

Everyone from the 1998 UK Rock Challenge teams who took part at any of the three Global Rock Challenge Eurotour 1998 performances in Portsmouth, York or Drury Lane will remember Jane's masterly sessions rehearsing her stunning "Finale" routine with the massed hordes. We wish her many congratulations for the national recognition she has received, and hope for every success in the future.

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Both Australia's Rock Eisteddfod and UK Rock Challenge are keen to spread international collaborative experiences among young people through their shared participation in Global Rock Challenge.

Enthusiasm also exists within the organisations to extend Liaison Teachers' knowledge of one another's schools, ways of life, 'Rockas', teaching styles and so on.

Discussions have recently been taking place with a view to setting up a Global Rock Challenge UK/Australia teacher-exchange programme, with Liaison Teachers perhaps swopping houses and jobs for perhaps 6 months at a time.

The discussions are now at the stage where before proceeding further with detailed planning, Rock Challenge needs to know whether in fact there is any interest among Liaison Teachers in such a scheme.

Liaison Teachers in either nation are asked to contact the website editor initially, either through email or by fax on 0870 1641 352 or 01482 668379. (International fax: + 44 870 1641 352 or + 44 1482 668379.)

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Southampton is twinned with Le Havre ... and now a new Rocka Relationship emerges and further strengthens the links that already exist between both ports on opposite sides of the Channel.

Invited across to French soil in 1998, Mark Pontin gave a Rock Challenge presentation to Le Havre's dignitaries but felt he had failed when no entry followed from that initial visit.

However he certainly had engaged their attention, for they invited him back to make his presentation to a wider audience. Staff at the local Lycee Regional Francois 1er later contacted UK Rocka to enter a team at the 2001 Southampton Event.

A warm welcome is assured - those experienced stunners in Wildern School at nearby Hedge End are planning to look after their fellow French Rockas during their stay in Hampshire and we expect the roof may lift when the Le Havre team take to the stage for the first time.

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No Scottish school has ever taken part in UK Rock Challenge, but a group of enthusiastic students from Peterhead Academy in Aberdeenshire are set to change all that in 2001.

Teacher Vanessa Geib - previously heavily involved with Rock Challenge teams from Healing School (near Grimsby, in England) - took up a teaching post at the Academy at the beginning of September 2000 and immediately set about firing up the imagination of her new students.

She seems to have succeeded magnificently and here (south of the border) we're all looking forward to Friday May 4th at the Sands Centre, when - with teams from Lancashire and Cumbria too - we greet Scotlands's "First and Finest", as they stagger off the coach at the end of their 220 mile (350 km) trek south into uncharted territories and prepare to rock along with the rest of us!

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Getting permission to use each of the music extracts that they wish to incorporate into their backing soundtrack can be a large undertaking for many / most teams.

Rock Challenge Liaison Teacher Vanessa Geib of the Healing Comprehensive School in 2000 but now Scotland's first-ever Rock Challenge Liaison Teacher - see her Peterhead Academy team in action at Carlisle in 2001) has found the following webpage that might be of use to everyone else too:


Click to go there and track down some of those elusive addresses, and thank-you Vanessa!

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