Yorkshire Champions Group - The Community Champions (formerly Bradford Champions Group)
We are delighted to be re-launching the programme under the new name of Yorkshire Champions Group; within this programme is The Community Champions.
Coming soon is also a website - we will keep you updated on when this goes live!
The Community Champions are a team of diverse and very carefully selected individuals. They come from non-privileged backgrounds and some have experienced their own difficulties and hurdles in life. Gill Arnold (founder of the
Yorkshire Champions Group) has spent the last fifteen years as a serving magistrate in both Adult and Youth Court and has also been heavily involved with the Youth Charity JAMES. Over the years she has seen hundreds of children and young adults in every situation
Some from mainstream school, some that have been excluded, children with one parent, no parents, same-sex parents, parents who are working, not working, problems with drugs, alcohol and a whole spectrum of mental health issues in both youths and adults.
In addition, the ‘Looked After’ children in homes and in the care of the local authority, children with stable lives and those living in such horrendous situations you couldn’t possibly imagine.
However, every single one of them had something in common! With the right direction and support, they all had the potential to succeed at something, to some degree or other. Gill has never, in all her years as a magistrate, seen one child and thought that
they were a lost cause.
In our mainstream schools, some pupils seem to breeze through. They turn up, listen, take part, complete homework, pass exams and leave equipped to go on to better things. And then there are those students who struggle and have a very different view of
school life altogether. Whether it be through immaturity, lack of self-esteem, little or no family support, motivation or just the general inability to grasp the importance of what is on offer.
Often, with that kind of attitude comes disruption and disrespect in the classroom, ending in total frustration and hours of wasted time. The teachers who have prepared and planned specific lessons are sometimes almost considered a nuisance or perhaps someone
there to spoil their social interaction. And instead of teaching, it can end up policing a class, which then has a knock-on effect on those students who do grasp the point of education and want to learn.
Our aim is solely to support the school and the teachers. We all understand and appreciate what a difficult and stressful profession teaching can be. When a team member is invited into a school they will talk about their own journeys but also endeavor to
inspire, encourage and motivate their audience. We would like to try and change the attitude and the way some students feel about education in general.
Sometimes it can be as late as year 11 before reality sets in and they realise what opportunities they have missed. And they have nothing to carry forward in their ‘Educational Bank Account’.
By that Gill means, that every bit of effort and knowledge they retain now, is almost like banking invisible money. And without realising it, they are already preparing and contributing to this ‘Educational Bank Account’ which will pay dividends at a later
date. This will give them something to offer and enable them to have choices in life. In addition, it will prepare them to stand on their own two feet, take care of their families and feel like a worthwhile member of society.
Sometimes on the last day of school, after the initial euphoria comes deep disappointment, huge self-esteem issues, panic and then…what now?
Furthermore, if our Community Champions can help just some of these young people, to see the connection between, the value, effort and hard work they put in today and the opportunities that will open on leaving school with a full ‘Educational Bank Account’.
And finally, we would like them to understand and appreciate the teachers because they are in fact the gateway to a happy and successful future.
Our Community Champions:
Adeeba Malik - CBE Deputy Chief Executive
Adeeba manages a number of social, educational and economic projects. She has extensive experience of working with public, private and third sector organizations on equality and diversity projects. She also has led projects in Pakistan in particular pre-departure
Amerjeat Sarai - Education Partnerships Lead Officer
Amer has worked for Bradford Council since 1991 in roles that partner all members of the community.
Andrea Eli - Sales Director Banner Group Ltd
Andrea grew up on Canterbury Estate in the 70’s. Back then the estate was very much a community and everybody knew each other.
Anne Newton - Technical Analyst at Yorkshire Water
Anne has worked as a graduate research chemist in the pharmaceutical industry and microbiologist in the water industry.
Ann-Marie Keighley - Marketing Manager at Schofield Sweeney
Whilst at college I worked part time in restaurants, take-aways and even in an ice cream kiosk.
Ben Paolozzi - JP, Deputy Bench Chair (West Yorkshire) & Regional Digital Lead (North-East Region)
Ben is a former fire officer, retired from West Yorkshire Fire & Rescue Service after 31 years’ service in 2014.
Catherine has been a police officer for 22 years and has only recently taken up post as ACC in West Yorkshire. Prior to that, she served with the Greater Manchester Police in a variety of roles and areas of policing.
Cathy Prior - Education Lead at Provident Financial Group
Cathy comes from a working-class background, born and bred in Bradford. Her dad was in the wool trade, mum worked part-time evenings at Provident. Cathy grew up in a typical terraced house in Clayton, where her mum still lives. They didn’t have much money,
but had a little backyard and they got by!
Major Christian Storey - British Army Officer in the Adjutant General’s Corps
'Born and Bred' in Bradford, Christian attended St Bede’s Grammar School, leaving school after completing his GCSEs in 2001. He did not continue onto A-Levels as at that time he had “no intention of going to university”, and instead completed a four-year
Mechanical Engineering Apprenticeship.
David Coupe - Senior Partner EC3 Legal LLP
David was born in the early 60’s into the mining area of Wigan in Lancashire.
David had a company, providing training services to banks and businesses in banking and finance-related subjects. He worked delivering for larger providers such as the Financial Times, various UK universities and professional bodies.
David Wilford - Managing Director at Ysustain Limited & CEO – Bramley Baths, Leeds
David was born on Broadstone Way in Holme Wood. He went to school locally, Dudley Hill Primary, Highfield Middle and Fairfax High School. David left school at 16 and went into textiles. He moved to London and has had a number of different roles, travelled
the world and moved back to his hometown of Bradford to make a difference. David has always inspired others to achieve their full potential.
- Head of Academy at CCS Media
After spending many years selling, Emma started working with the Academy, working with young people coaching them to how to sell and become Account Managers. After a couple of years doing this, she progressed to become the Head of Academy.
My passion is to encourage people to educate themselves. The focus is to raise awareness on the importance of education in society, children, our lives, women and all adults.
Firzana Ahmed - QPM, Retired Police Officer
My parents came to Britain in 1966 and settled in Leeds where I grew up. Born the middle one of seven children, I've always been considered the peacemaker in the family. I enjoyed school but didn’t excel in my educational studies.
Gill Arnold - JP DL, Founder of The Yorkshire Champions Group, Chairman of the West Yorkshire Magistrates' Bench & Vice Chairman Carlton Bolling MAT.
Gill was born, bred and educated in Bradford and upon leaving education she spent around 13 years in the fashion industry. After having two daughters, she ran two businesses, which allowed her to work from home. Gill became a Magistrate in 2003.
Graham Sweeney - Chief Operating Officer at Schofield Sweeney Solicitors
Graham is currently the Chief Operating Officer at Schofield Sweeney Solicitors with overall responsibility for IT, Marketing, HR and pretty much anything else that is not legal work.
"Commitment, determination, conscientiousness and the ability to meet and overcome hurdles are the keys to success."
Richard is the resident judge of Bradford, following his appointment in August 2020.
Mr Ibrar Hussain Khan is the Consul General of Pakistan, Bradford.
Inderpal Singh Sagu, better known by his stage name Indy Sagu, is a renowned multi-award-winning music producer and creative director.
Jamaal has two young children and before work commitments increased, he took part as a Parent Governor within their school. Jamaal believes that the change will happen and being prepared for change is key to a happy working life.
James Hardy - Managing Director at CCS Media
James Hardy is the Managing Director for CCS Media Limited.
Jasbir Athwal is a driven and enthused business consultant who is keen to help businesses of all sizes reach their potential by providing strategic advice and practical solutions.
- Company Director of Story Film and Photography
Lived most of my life in Bradford. Flunked my A-levels at school, mostly through laziness. Came out with 1 pass, just, in History. Worked in odd jobs for 2 years before deciding I needed to do more with my life.
Karen Cruise - Chief Executive. Flourished Minds Ltd
I was born and grew up in Chapeltown, Leeds, where back in the 1960s & 70s you were stereotyped as a black child for all the wrong reasons.
- UK & EU Student Recruitment Manager at University of Bradford
Katie has worked at the University of Bradford since 2013, initially in the careers department but now manages the UK and EU Student Recruitment Team. This role enables Katie to champion strategies linked to raising aspirations and promoting higher education
across the UK and Europe, a significant part of Katie’s role also involves working to reduce gaps between those most, and least, represented in higher education.
Kelly Deegan - Barclays Team Support Manager
Kelly focuses on progressing her career and developing her knowledge within the banking sector.
Kiel Townend - General Sales Manager at CCS Media
Kiel grew up in Eccleshill and after leaving school without a real idea of a career, he joined Shipley College to complete a GNVQ in Leisure and Tourism, with the thought of possibly becoming a PE teacher.
Mark Burns-Williamson OBE - Previous Crime Commissioner at West Yorkshire Police
Mark was born in Castleford and started his working life as an apprentice stonemason working for Wakefield County Council, whilst also studying civil engineering at Leeds Building College. During the 1980s he was also Shop Steward for building union UCATT
where he represented 200 workers.
- Co-Founder & Director at Exa Networks
Mark has around 20 years’ experience in the ISP sector. Mark was a member of the BID Development Board and is currently a member of Bradford Breakthrough, and on the Leadership Group for the Chamber of Commerce.
A Coronial appointment is a great privilege and a role Martin takes most seriously. The key to his position is developing strong, lasting relationships with the local community.
Michael Cracknell - Business Development Manager at Schofield Sweeney Solicitors
Michael has worked in law firms and accountancy for 20 years, purely in marketing, BD and comms roles (e.g. not as a lawyer).
Mohammad Ali - Senior IT Account Manager at CCS Media
Born and raised in Bradford, Mohammed grew up in a Council estate area, living with his family of seven.
Nick Garthwaite - Managing Director of Christeyns Ltd
Born in London in 1957, Nick has spent most of his life so far in Yorkshire, and thus would like to be considered an honary Yorkshireman!
Nirmal Singh is best known locally, regionally and nationally as the manufacturer of quilts through his former business, Nirmal Razai Mart & Company Ltd, which he started a few years after he came from India with £3 to his credit.
Osman Khan - Temporary Assistant Chief Constable at West Yorkshire Police
Osman is a Police Officer within West Yorkshire. He is currently the Temporary Assistant Chief Constable who is responsibility for Specialist Crime with his substantive role being the District Commander for Bradford.
Peter studied law by correspondence course and at the Inns of Court School of Law from 1973-1975.
Raj was born in India on 21/11/1961. He grew up near Bombay (Mumbai), then moved to Delhi when he was around 13 years old. Raj came to England when he was around 15 years of age in 1975.
In 2008, Richard was appointed as a magistrate on the Bradford and Keighley bench and is continuing to serve the Bradford community.
Rob Omar - Director of Academies at CCS Media Ltd
Rob has worked at CCS Media for over 18 years and has held most sales roles within the organisation. His current role is to head up the academies and apprenticeship programmes, bringing talent into the business.
Ruwena Khan - Barrister at Park Square Barristers
Ruwena was born in Cheshire and studied at Altrincham Grammar School for Girls where she undertook A Levels in Maths, French, History and General Studies.
Sabbiyah Pervez - Community Reporter at BBC Look North
Sabbiyah is one of six girls who faced cultural barriers. She is a passionate feminist and an advocate for young people.
Samreen Akhtar - Barrister at Broadway House Chambers
Samreen is a barrister specialising in crime and currently practises on the North Eastern Circuit.
Sana Khan - Account Manager at CCS Media
Sana is an enthusiastic 24 year old, British Pakistani female. She has been through various job types within the Health Care industry. Sana studied Level 3 Health & Social Care as well as Level 3 Business & Management.
Sharena Lee Satti is an independent Artist, Poet, Author, Spoken word artist and Workshop facilitator. She is really passionate about poetry and self-expression through creative art and spoken word.
Sharon is currently one of the Directors of TechATP, a Microsoft Education Partner. She used to work for Microsoft and prior to that, she was with Santander, establishing the fast growth SME accelerator program called Breakthrough.
Shazia Awan - Radio Program Developer/Learning Support Assistant at Beckfoot Thornton Academy
Shazia comes from a hardworking Pakistani Asian Immigrant family whose father came to the UK at the age of 12 and was a mill worker until he succeeded in the Restaurant/Takeaway business, her mother has always been a housewife.
Simmy Sekhon - Managing Director of The Sekhon Group
Simmy Sekhon is a dynamic lawyer turned property entrepreneur who initially started as a sole practitioner solicitor trading as Sekhon Firth Solicitors. Within five years Simmy grew the practice to approximately 140 staff. Simmy sold the practice in 2010
to concentrate on Commercial Property Development and has been growing the portfolio extensively.
Simon Hinchliffe - Headmaster at Bradford Grammar
Simon started work at Bradford Grammar School in September 2014 as the Deputy Head and became the Headmaster in January 2016. Before that he worked at Wolverhampton Grammar School, starting in 2000, his first teaching job.
Simone Reid - Managing Director and Personal & Leadership Coach, Founding Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer of the Dandelion Organisation Ltd, Transformational
Speaker and Success Strategist
They say the first 5-7 years of each person’s life are the most formative. These the ones with the life-long capacity to define our academic experience, quality of adult relationships, career prospects and so much more.
Steph Booth - Writer and Journalist
Steph has lectured both in the UK and the Czech Republic. She also taught English for three years in secondary schools, was a writer for the Irish Times and, was the first person to go to University from her family who were originally Manchester Irish.
Steph has a wealth of knowledge and is very much about supporting others.
Suzanne Watson - Managing Director, Approach PR Ltd, President of Bradford Chamber of Commerce
Suzanne Watson is the founder and managing director of Yorkshire public relations and social media agency, Approach PR Ltd, which represents clients in the manufacturing, retail and professional services sectors.
In 2011, Tahir was appointed one of Her Majesty’s Counsel (Queen’s Counsel) and since then, his practice has been almost exclusively in prosecuting and defending cases of the utmost complexity and seriousness. These include murder, complex fraud, and terrorism
Tasif Khan - World Champion Boxer
Tasif Khan has always been supporting young disengaged people from the local community to become better individuals through the discipline and self-control that is nurtured through boxing.
Thomas Whitford-Bartle - Alumni Engagement Officer at University of Bradford
Thomas is an Alumni Engagement Officer at the University of Bradford.
Tim Rogers - Director and founder of the Yorkshire Space & Satellite Centre
Born and raised in Bradford, Tim did an undergraduate degree at Bradford University and a postgraduate degree at Leeds University. Tim currently works with children within the Yorkshire Space & Satellite Centre.
Dr Trevor Higgins - Chief Executive Officer of Bradford Breakthrough
Trevor is Bradford born, bred and educated. He was brought up in a happy, family of nine in a three bedroomed council semi on the edge of an estate.
Victoria Hartford - Director of Primary in the Carlton Academy Trust
Victoria was born in Manchester, her mum was 16 and we lived on a council estate called Limeside which was affectionately referred to as Crimeside.
Virginia Lloyd - Sales Director, Solicitor and Deputy Lieutenant, President of the West Yorkshire Business Branch of the RNLI
Virginia has worked with her husband for the past 32 years in a manufacturing and property business. She is the current President of the RNLI West Yorkshire Business Branch.
Yunus Mayat - IT Specialist at Bradford Council
Yunus has worked for Bradford Council for the last 13 years in the Information, Communication and Technology Department. He was seconded to IBM and Serco under the Strategic IT Partnership from 2005 – 2015, delivering IT Services to Bradford Council.
Zaf Shah - Doctoral Legal Researcher and Legal Consultant
Zaf was born and raised in Lidget Green, Bradford. Zaf’s father was a mill worker and his mother is a housewife, who is now widowed. Zaf comes from a family of six, four brothers and two sisters. Zafs family was a typical working-class family living in
the inner city of Bradford.
If you wish to book a Community Champion to visit your school please email Fatimah Hussain at
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