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Real Action’s founder, Roger Diamond, is a social entrepreneur, a musician, a community activist – and a former freelance performing arts journalist, playwright, and youth and community worker. At the age of just 14 he started his own discounted sales business, which he ran mainly from a spare office in a barber shop in Tottenham. As a teenager he performed in the Merry Makers Steel-band and then with reggae singer ‘Honey Boy’. After forming a youth R&B band with Jean Paul Maunick (leader of popular fusion band Incognito) he founded two British reggae bands, one in Tottenham, and the other in Hackney, which went on to get a number of top ten hits in the British pop charts.
Roger also founded and ran The 18th Brocade Performing Arts project in Tottenham from 1978 to 1987 where he taught music and drama to teenagers, and organised theatrical events and musicals. He founded and managed the teenage youth-reggae-band, The Black Diamonds, which performed in summer projects at most of Haringey’s primary schools. The group eventually toured the UK with the world-famous Mighty Diamonds from Jamaica. Roger currently performs part-time as an organist and pianist specialising in ballads and improvisation.
Roger has served on the boards of various council bodies, and is currently a school governor. He founded the educational charity Real Action in 1996. In 1995, Mozart (council housing) Estate was subject to major regeneration. Roger, then a member of the Tenants’ Association, helped to found the Mozart Block Reps, and instigated the introduction of security guards to patrol the then-crime-ridden estate. It was the teenage gang leaders’ revelation to the security guards that they wanted help with literacy and maths that prompted Roger to seek a solution. With the help of Katie Ivens, and Butterfly literacy expert, Irina Tyk, the pilot Butterfly Summer Reading School on the Mozart Estate took place in summer 1995. Nine months later eleven local community members responded to Roger’s call to form the Founding Committee of Real Action. He helped to run the charity, as its chairman, for many years. Roger is currently Company Secretary and Development Director. He supports Real Action with general management and governance. He also helps by organising events, relationship building, marketing, developing the website and producing the newsletter. Roger is a very active school governor and for over two years Chair of Finance at Queens Park Primary School.
In 2016 Roger became a Fellow of The Royal Society of Arts.
Following her career as a journalist and editor, and ever since her sons entered the state education system, Katie has engaged in the principles and practice of education reform. As a parent she was a primary school reading volunteer, a parent governor, and a parent campaigner for ‘real’ education as Vice Chairman of the aptly named Campaign for Real Education. With CRE chairman Nick Seaton she co-wrote Operation Whole Curriculum: A Tangled Web? – a study which revealed how the subject disciplines of real education are dismantled, blended and subsumed by non- , or anti-educational processes, programmes and policies. She was a secondary school governor (at Quintin Kynaston School) for some years, and became a Westminster City Councillor with a special interest in education as the council took over schools from the newly abolished ILEA (Inner London Education Authority). She also involved herself in regeneration programmes, notably Estate Action on the then-notorious Mozart Estate.
Informed by the first-hand observations of estate activist and resident Roger Diamond, who noted that local child gang members were illiterate, she helped set up the ground-breaking Butterfly Summer Reading School on the Mozart Estate in 1995. With Roger, she co-founded the educational charity, Real Action*.
[*Real Action was named by the management committee of local residents without reference to, or association with, the CRE. It has no conceptual or actual connection with the campaigning organisation.]
As an education reformer Katie continues to wear different hats. Her educational advocacy – particularly on the broadcast media – continues as the CRE’s Vice Chairman, as does her educational activism as Real Action’s Education Director. She is an Associate of the Institute of Ideas and member of the IoI Education Forum; and Visiting Research Fellow of the University of Derby Centre for Educational Research.
Sam Bandah is a NCTJ trained journalist and PR Specialist with over six years professional editorial and communications experience in technology, politics and entertainment. He gained his Bachelor of Science (BSc), Politics and Modern History degree, from his studies at Brunel University.
Sam has been a Senior Staff Writer on a number of consumer gaming and computing magazines. Currently a PR Manager responsible for a number of high profile gaming and technology clients including Blizzard, CCP and Trion as well as a number of cutting edge Indie gaming clients. He is a gaming expert, and his role includes maintaining excellent relationships with key mainstream and specialist press. He’s also responsible for strategic planning, coverage reporting and bespoke client campaign creation.
Sam has known and supported the work that Real Action has done for a number of years as a volunteer, English Teacher and Teacher Trainer for the charity in the past.
He’s seen first-hand; the difference that the Butterfly School has made to the lives of children. Not only have they gained far greater educational opportunities but he has seen their whole lives changed for the better.
Sam says that: Whilst he can no longer help as he has in the past, with teaching or training on an ongoing basis, being a trustee allows him to continue contributing to the charity.
“I’d like Real Action to be here as long as it’s needed and to prosper in the important work it does. If I can help that happen by being a trustee, I’d very much like that”.
Sherry has had a successful and diversified career in education and she has won a number of awards in curriculum design, economics, creative writing and science.
She came to England on a Fulbright Scholarship in 1991 to teach school, and she has lived in London ever since. She has worked in a number of leadership roles in maths, language, IT, gifted and talented and curriculum development.
After teaching in London primary schools for a number of years, she became a specialist in literacy and worked as a consultant for ARK Schools from 2007 – 2012. Currently she supports staff and students at School 21 in Stratford.
Sherry operates Brandenburg Bent Tutorials, a weekend school supporting students in their preparation for exams. In addition, she is currently the chairman for Real Action.
Sherry has received a number of accolades including “Teacher of the Year” in her school system in the U.S., as well as being awarded a “Woman of Achievement” award at her university. In 2010 she was elected to the “Hall of Fame” at her Ohio high school. She received two Masters Degrees with honours in both educational curriculum and development, as well as in administration and supervision.
Rachael Stirling is an award winning actress who has worked extensively in theatre, television and film.
She has an MA from Edinburgh University, but has been living in London since graduating in 1999. Rachael first became aware of Real Action when she began volunteering for the Butterfly School, since which time she has gladly increased her involvement with the charity and has been a trustee since 2012. She is a local resident of North London, and has seen first-hand the transformative effect of the Butterfly system of learning on the young. As a trustee she intends to raise the awareness of the extraordinary work the charity does, and her love of literature and poetry has inspired her to endeavour, through Real Action, to improve the inadequate literacy levels with which many children struggle in schools every day.
Dennis taught in secondary schools, special schools and further education before moving into teacher education and describes himself as a philosopher manqué. He was a panel member of the Mayor of London’s Education Inquiry which reported in October 2012.
Dennis has been the National Co-ordinator of the Institute of Ideas’ Education Forum since 2004 and is a Committee Member of the IoI’s flagship festival the Battle of Ideas. He is the founder of the East Midlands Salon which is a regional forum committed to the Institute of Ideas’ progressive principles which reflect the values of the Enlightenment.
Since 2007 he has been Hon. Secretary of the Standing Committee for the Education and Training of Teachers (SCETT) and recently edited and contributed to their pamphlet In Defence of Teacher Education. It is free to download here.
Dennis was the first president of the University and College Union in 2006-7. He is the founder and director of the campaign group Academics For Academic Freedom (AFAF).
He was appointed to the Editorial Board of the Times Higher Education magazine in 2007 and has been a columnist for FE Focus in the TES. He became the first education columnist of the UK edition of The Conversation in February 2014.
He is one of the authors of three post-compulsory Education textbooks, including the best-selling Teaching and Training in Lifelong Learning (4th Edition 2012). For education students he recommends his edited book The Routledge Guide to Key Debates in Education (2004) for short articles that might stimulate them to do some original thinking. His controversial co-authored book The Dangerous Rise of Therapeutic Education (2008) has been described as ‘one of the most important books to have been written in at least the last twenty years in that crucial area where philosophy, policy and practice coincide’.
Dennis was made a National Teaching Fellow in 2010, the equivalent of a Carnegie Scholar in the US.
Irina Tyk is the Head of Holland House School, a coeducational independent school for children aged 4 to 11. The School’s most recent Ofsted Report states that “Holland House provides an outstanding quality of education overall and enables pupils to make outstanding academic progress.”
Irina Tyk has written three books to raise reading, writing and arithmetic standards among young children. They are:
- The Butterfly Book, published in 2007
- The Butterfly Grammar, published in 2008
- The Butterfly Arithmetic, published in 2011
The Daily Mail’s Education Correspondent, Sarah Harris, wrote of The Butterfly Book, “The method is simple — a no-frills and no-nonsense approach to teaching children to read…The results speak for themselves.”
Using The Butterfly Book, children at Holland House School have been shown, by independent assessment over a number of years, to have among the highest reading standards in the country. Five-year-olds reach a reading age equivalent to eight-year-olds.
Irina Tyk was a director and teacher of The Butterfly Project which ran summer courses for children from 1991 to 2009. These very successful morning classes now continue at a number of venues run by different teachers and organisations.
Currently, The Butterfly Book, The Butterfly Grammar – and Irina Tyk’s latest books, The Advanced Butterfly Reader and The Junior Butterfly Reader – are being trialled as The Butterfly Initiative in a number of maintained schools by Real Action, a charitable trust, under the terms of a grant of from The Education Endowment Foundation.
Irina Tyk has for many years promoted synthetic phonics as the best way to teach children to read and to imbue children with their first classroom experience of integrating concepts by reference to the 44 sounds and the corresponding combination of the 26 letters of the English alphabet. This is now advocated by Ofsted as “an indispensable tool” to teach children how to read and is promoted by The Department for Education as the best way to boost reading standards.
Irina Tyk often presents her views on reading and other educational issues in the press and media. Her views were expressed in Culture in the Classroom (published by The Centre for Policy Studies, 1996) and in a speech to The Family Education Trust that was published in 2009 under the title, Education and Culture.