A month or so ago, I was honoured to be invited to act as one of the judges in the Japan Webpage Contest for Schools 2010. Having spent a gruelling morning trying to choose the winners for the various categories, it was again a real privilege to not only be asked to attend the awards ceremony, but to present the prize for the best designed website.
So in leaving school, I drove down to London, then ditched the car for the tube to Green Park, and the magnificent surroundings of the Embassy of Japan. Having been worried about getting there late (anyone who knows me well, realises that punctuality is not one of my great strengths!) I actually was one of the first to arrive.
The ceremony started promptly, with Kim Woodruff of the Japan Foundation doing a sterling job as host for the evening. We then heard from Takashi Ishida, the director of the Japan Foundation in London, who expressed and reflected our delight at the quality and quantity of entries into the competition, and to award the 'People's Vote' award. Bearsden Primary School scooped that award, and we heard from one of the their teachers, and a very eloquent pupil, Adam, who explained to the gathered audience all about the website in a really captivating way.
I was then up to present the Design Prize to Tile Hill Wood School in Coventry who through their Japanese teacher Dan Thompson, and IT technician Jamie Lee created a truely funky website - including a great link to their project with famous pop star Suga Shikao.
After yet another award for Bearsden (Runners-Up) and one for South Wolds Community School, presented by Satonobu Matsunaga from the Embassy of Japan. We were then introduced to the overall winners of the competition, awarded by Tamzin Caffrey from CILT. Ballyclare Primary School's website was a unanimous and very popular winner, a website which clearly demonstrated how Japanese language and culture has had an impact on the whole school, how a link with a partner school in Japan has made the school more environmentally aware, and the delight on the faces of the pupils at winning the prize was for me, a really humbling experience. Designing a webpage for a competition is one thing, but designing one that forms an integral part of a much wider, whole school project made me realise how seriously this event was taken by the participating schools.
The representatives from each winning school were then given the opportunity to talk the audience through their own websites, and and then to answer questions from those in attendance.
So, then followed the reception, where the winners got the chance to meet and greet the assembled guests, and have a few nibbles and to take another closer look at the websites and those who put them all together.
It was a brilliant evening, and I left inspired by the effort, creativity and dedication of who those who took the time to enter the competition. It has really strengthened my resolve to set up a Japanese club at my school, and to try and tap into just some of the enthusiasm shown by the worthy winners of this year's competition.