BACK TO SCHOOL: Queensbury school celebrates the life and history of Martin Luther King

Queensbury school celebrated the life and history of Martin Luther King on the 15 January 2024.

Students investigated this inspirational leader who was one of the most prominent leaders in in the civil rights movement.

Students researched Martin Luther King then presented their findings in a range of creative outcomes including newspaper articles, posters, performances, and more, even making his favourite drink – lemonade – with a Martin Luther King inspired logo design.

Students shared their hard work and the entries were judged with prizes awarded in assembly donated by the Parent Teacher Association (PTA).

For more on Queensbury School visit www.queensburysch.com

For more on Impact Education Academy Trust visit www.educationimpact.org.uk

FEATURE: SEND education in Erdington – past, present, and “fiercely committed people” working hard for the future

Words by Erdington Local editorial team

As children return to classrooms across the country, many with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) are forced to stay learning from home. Limited placements, underfunding, and cuts to travel support make it more difficult for SEND children to access to school-based education.

Erdington has a strong portfolio of SEND education, with children referred to special schools in the constituency from across the wider city. But it’s still not enough, and Erdington’s SEND educators continue to face challenges whilst delivering a nationally recognised high standard of education.

With local schools achieving impressive GCSE and A-level results this year, and more ‘Good’ and ‘Outstanding’ Ofsted rated academies than ever before, the educational future is looking brighter for pupils in Erdington, Kingstanding, and Castle Vale.

The upheaval of the pandemic is also becoming a distant memory for pupils and staff, with this year seeing the first post lockdown results to rely on exam results and coursework instead of predicted grades from teachers.

However, parents and carers of children with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) have a very different story to tell.

With a shortage of SEND places in Birmingham, families with children who live with a wide range of disabilities cannot find a suitable school for their child to attend. And those lucky enough to have found the right placement now face their free school transport being axed due to budget cuts at Birmingham City Council.

Teacher, parent of a child with autism, and founder of SEND National Crisis Birmingham, Kate Taylor, laid bare the crisis to Erdington Local. She told: “Right now there are hundreds of children in Birmingham, including Erdington and Kingstanding, who will be sitting at home as children return to school for the start of term. Parents of SEND children face a massive battle to get their child the proper education they need and deserve.

Kate believes a continual lack of investment for SEND children is the key to the problem. She continued: “My son is 21 and what our experience was compared to parents starting out in 2023 with a SEND child is totally different. I could go to my local Sure Start Centre, which were a great help in all different ways from early diagnosis to finding support from other parents; I knew I was not alone trying to bring up a child with very challenging needs.”

She added: “Whereas attitudes and awareness of disabilities and mental health has improved massively, the services on offer have disappeared or are now private.

“Sadly, due to their caring needs a lot of SEND children’s families are struggling financially – as one parent may have to give up work.

“So, withdrawing transport for them and offering a bus pass when these children would find it impossible to navigate their way to school on two different buses adds even more children sitting at home.

“There has been a massive increase in home schooling; but this is not a choice, this is enforced because there is not enough provision in North Birmingham through dedicated SEND schools and mainstream schools with the ability to accommodate SEND children.”

However, Erdington historically has some of the best SEND school provision in the country, and currently hosts the highest percentage of SEND schools of any constituency in Birmingham. There are four secondary special schools in Erdington: Oscott Manor School, Queensbury School, The Pines Special School, and Wilson Stuart School.

There is also the Dovedale Centre, which offers an 81 placement provision for pupils with a diagnosis of Autism Spectrum Conditions (ASC), and Hive Collage, which has 110 places for students aged between 19-25.

And in 2024 a new free school will be opened in Kingstanding with provision for 120 students, aged between 14-19, with both ASC and social, emotional, and mental health (SEMH) issues.

Wilson Stuart School can trace its history back to 1902 when it opened as Dean Street Cripple School. In 1907 the school moved to George Street West, where it remained for the next 49 years, and it has been at its purpose-built Perry Common Road premises since 1956 – now catering for 270 pupils aged 2-19 years. Lauded as one of the best SEND schools in the country, Wilson Stuart has been rated ‘Outstanding’ by Ofsted in its last six inspections.

The school became part of the Education Impact Academy Trust (EIAT) academy group, established in March 2012, alongside Hive Collage and Handsworth’s Mayfield School. EIAT now includes the Wood End Road based Queensbury School, adopting the Gravelly Hill secondary from the Local Authority in 2020 after it received an ‘Inadequate’ Ofsted rating and faced closure.

But maintaining a high standard of education for children with SEND requires “a really high bar”, and higher costs – as the cohort need more staff and facilities to thrive.

Wilson Stuart Executive Head Teacher, Simon Harris, explains: “Erdington is an incredibly successful place for providing high quality education for children with SEND, but the reality is that we’re doing that despite the funding we receive – and that becomes increasingly difficult because all the time you’re trying to squeeze everything out of those last pennies.”

“At Wilson Stuart our challenges are ramped up by a disproportionate amount because we’re dealing with pretty much the most complex children, physically and medically, in the city. And to provide a high-quality education we’ve had to set a really high bar.

“Our staff work incredibly hard and are incredibly passionate about what they do, and that passion and enthusiasm exudes through everyone who works here. And we support people to take risks, educationally, to try things and push the boundaries”

He added: “If you ask me why Wilson Stuart is so successful it’s because we try things, and if they work then great and we continue doing them – but if they don’t work, there’s not a blame culture and we just move on. And that creates a culture where you’re constantly getting fresh ideas and new ways of doing things, and really enthused staff who can see the great results we get for our students.”

Since being part of EIAT, and through the work of its current senior leadership team and staff, standards have also improved at Queensbury School, which also can trace its history back over 120 years. Furthermore, Queensbury is walking into the new academic year with a brand new £5 million sixth form facility on Station Road, Erdington, call New Horizons.

Bushra Adnan, Head of Post 16 at Queensbury, told Erdington Local: “We are excited to be opening the doors to New Horizons, our new sixth form provision for students aged 16-19 which is located on Station Road.

“Students will benefit from a building which has been taken back to first fix, and adapted with extensions and redesigning to offer a provision with all the facilities young people need to prepare for adulthood. There are 11 classrooms, which includes a dual-purpose common room, it has a calm room, mentors room, hall, dual purpose cooking room, and canteen.”

She added: “Students will also benefit from a prime location, being a stone’s throw from Erdington High Street, Erdington Railway Station, and many other local businesses and amenities. This is an exciting time for all stakeholders at Queensbury School and Sixth Form.”

However, parents and carers of SEND children are now dealing with a transport bombshell which could add to the numbers being home schooled.

Birmingham City Council (BCC) has informed families of SEND children the free minibus and taxi rides previously provided by the Local Authority are coming to an end, after an overspend of £18 million in last year’s school transport budget. Children will now be given a personal travel budget, which will mean many parents will have to choose between work and taking their children to school.

Then On Tuesday 5 September, Birmingham City Council issued a Section 114 notice, stopping any ‘new spending’ as they face a projected deficit of £87m and potentially up to £760m in new claims over unequal pay. And despite soft reassurances being made that education in the city won’t suffer, concerns are mounting.

Wilson Stuart Head teacher, Simon Harris, continued: “Wilson Stuart is bigger than it’s ever been now, with 270 places this year, but we are still turning away referrals because we don’t have the space. It’s important to recognise the Local Authority have supported us by funding an additional building, but there needs to be some intervention from Government in terms of pay increases, and that those are funded properly in the SEND sector with its higher staffing ratios.

“What we don’t want, and where some special schools go wrong, is it becoming just about keeping the children safe and being present. Being present isn’t being included and being included is about high-quality education, and you’ve got to make sure you’ve got the resources – both human and facilities.

“I think we (SEND educators) are always the afterthought, we’re the bottom of the pile in the thought process… and normally it takes someone having to bang a drum to show that with the running costs for special schools the money being put on the table isn’t going to cover the things we need to do to keep offering an outstanding education.

“It’s going to be tough. But in a way that’s the rallying cry – education, be it in Erdington or Birmingham, needs fiercely committed people who don’t back down, work incredibly hard, are passionate about the children. It’s always needed that, people who won’t just shout it but will actually do it.”

For more on Wilson Stuart School visit www.wilsonstuart.co.uk
For more on Queensbury School visit www.queensburysch.com

For more on Education Impact Academy Trust (EIAT) visit www.educationimpact.org.uk

For more on SEND National Crisis visit www.facebook.com/SENDNationalCrisis

NEWS: Queensbury School set to open New Horizons for SEND sixth formers on Station Road

Words & pics by Ed King

Work is well underway to transform the old Osborne School Infant School on Station Road into a new satellite site for Queensbury School sixth formers called New Horizons – catering for young people with special education needs and disabilities (SEND).

Scheduled to open in September this year, New Horizons will have 11 state-of-the-art classrooms, a canteen, a sports hall, offices, a therapy room, a sensory room, and a pastoral mentors hub – in an ambitious new build costing around £5million.

In a prime location to support students preparing for adulthood and greater independence, accessible by neighbouring bus and train routes, the new provision will be “equipped with everything they (students) need to accelerate their learning and move closer towards realising their next steps”, told a spokesperson from Queensbury School.

The facility for 16–19 year olds will welcome up to 96 students with Autism, Severe Learning Difficulties (SLD), Moderate Learning Difficulties (MLD) and speech and language needs.

The Head of Centre, Mrs Bushra Adnan, told Erdington Local: “We are excited about the opportunities that will be available to all, and to start networking with local businesses to secure brighter futures and prospects for all our stakeholders.”

Mr Chris Wilson, Queensbury Executive Headteacher, added: “LOCATION, LOCATION, LOCATION… Our students will have access to good travel networks, a high street for work experience opportunities, leisure facilities close by, and vocational partnerships with the SEND sixth form.

“Students will experience a building that has a more ‘adult feel’ yet is fully inclusive to their needs. It’s great to see a former derelict site, contributing back to the Erdington community, supporting our most vulnerable young people with their education.”

The SEND crisis over student placements is a challenge for local authorities across the country. In Birmingham, approximately 11,500 young people (aged 0–19) have an Educational Health Care Plan (EHCP) and need a specialty setting, such as Queensbury School.

New Horizons has been made possible after a successful business plan from Chris Wilson, with Birmingham City Council working closely with Queensbury School and the Education Impact Academy Trust to make it a reality. 

Helen Ellis, Director of SEND and Inclusion at Birmingham City Council, said: “This is great news for young people and families in Erdington. There is a real challenge nationally for SEND places and this will provide much-needed extra provision for those with additional needs.

“Across the city and Council we are putting children at the heart of everything we do and our SEND and Inclusion strategies will ensure our children and young people are fully supported and included in all aspects of our community.

“New Horizons will be a fantastic facility for the Queensbury school community and I’d like to thank everyone involved.”

For more on Queensbury School visit www.queensburysch.com

NEWS: ‘Exciting times’ at Queensbury School, as the SEND educator jumps from ‘Inadequate’ to ‘Good’ in latest Ofsted report

Words by Ed King / Pics by Ed King & Queensbury School

Queensbury School, an Erdington based SEND educator, has jumped from an ‘Inadequate’ ranking to ‘Good’ in its recent Ofsted report.

The Wood End Road school, which caters for children with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND), had a previous Ofsted report published in March 2018 – where ‘strained relationships’ were found to be ‘impacting negatively on staff morale’.

But in its most recent report, published on 11 July 2023, the Government assessment told how ‘these are exciting times at Queensbury School’ – citing ‘caring staff, an ambitious curriculum and new buildings’ as reasons for the school’s significant progress.

In stark contrast to the 2018 Ofsted report, the recent inspection further noted Queensbury School’s ‘executive headteacher, supported by an inspirational leadership team, has brought excitement and enthusiasm’ – with staff feeling ‘supported’ and ‘well led and managed through strong moral leadership.’

The fresh report went on to celebrate how ‘staff work hard with parents to overcome barriers in order to get the best outcomes for pupils’ and foster ‘caring relationships between staff and pupils help pupils to feel safe and secure.’

Queensbury’s sixth form was found to be a ‘real strength of the school’, with ‘a strong careers team’ and partnership work offering ‘exciting and powerful real-life work-related traineeships for Year 14s.’

The school’s approach to bullying was given a special commendation, with Ofsted inspectors finding at Queensbury ‘bullying is rare and that if it happens, they (pupils) have confidence in staff to deal with it.’

Likewise, safeguarding at Queensbury School was found to be ‘effective’ – with regular staff training allowing teachers to ‘act swiftly to raise concerns about a child’ and ‘work closely with families to ensure that all is being done to keep pupils safe.’

Focusing on the curriculum, the 2023 Ofsted inspectors took a close look at ‘reading, mathematics, personal, social, health and economic education, science and the arts’.

In their final report, it was recognised that whilst there are ‘high expectations’ from the school’s senior leadership, ‘subject leaders work skilfully with teachers’ and ‘enthusiastically develop pupils’ understanding’.

‘Good’ is the second highest mark a school can get from Ofsted – the UK government’s official regulatory body for educators – with Queensbury asked to address pupil’s regular attendance and how the school support’s their external hobbies, in the 2023 report.

Further recommendation was given to ‘ensure that all staff appropriately adapt how the curriculum is implemented… so the pupils can learn more and remember more over time.’

Queensbury School Executive Headteacher, Chris Wilson, who came into post in November 2018 – over six months after the damning 2018 Osted report, was quick to celebrate the whole school for its efforts and recent recognition.

Mr Wilson told: “I am incredibly proud of all our students, staff and families that have supported the school to make this significant improvement from a previous special measures’ situation, when the school was judged ‘Inadequate’ by Ofsted in March 2018.

“Queensbury School academised with The Education Impact Academy Trust in September 2020 and has made rapid progress ever since.

“To make this progress, in this timescale, is not easy with the resourcing and challenges we have all faced as a school community.

“National educational budgets, previous school deficits, cost of living crisis, Covid 19 pandemic, SEND crisis, teacher recruitment crisis, building developments, and industrial action have not made the job easy.

“However, our students have continued to be the incredible individuals they are throughout.

“We see SEND and additional needs as ‘superpowers’ that just need targeting and carefully homing in on the right areas to excel. This has always driven our staff teams, no matter what the challenges have been.”

Michael York, Chair of the local governing body, added: “The transformation in the education delivery, the facilities, training, and strong student outcomes is breathtaking in such a short space of time.

“I am sure parents appreciate the strong leadership that has been required to turn this school around for their children.”

For more on Queensbury School visit www.queensburysch.com

BACK TO SCHOOL: Shaping the future of Maths at Queensbury School

Words & pics by supplied by Queensbury School

Queensbury School’s Maths department has been selected as the only West Midlands based special school to be part of an exciting research project on misconceptions in Maths – helping shape future development and understanding of the subject.

Recognised learning resource Eedi has received a prestigious research grant to help them dive deep into the interconnected nature of children’s misconceptions in mathematics and determine the best way to help support students in resolving them. Specifically, the grant is to help support Key Stage 3 students from low-income families who often underperform in mathematics relative to their more affluent peers.

In return, Queensbury has been given free access to the premium version of Eedi for 25 of our students (worth around £2000) – including free access to online, on-demand, personalised support from UK maths teachers every day from 9am to 8pm to help their learning.

Queensbury teachers set diagnostic questions on a weekly basis and students are then asked for the reasons for their answers, which is further collated and analysed.

Students receive immediate feedback on their correct or incorrect answers.

Mr Mustamer Shah, Head of Maths Department, told: ““We are proud to be part of this research. A lot of hard work has been put in to getting Queensbury onto this research project. It has been encouraging to see parents/carers take a leading role too.”

The feedback from students and parents has also been positive, with many happy their young person will help deepen the understanding of misconceptions in Maths for other students across the UK.

Queensbury Student Jaidan explained: “It was good because it was like a digital teacher and it helps you with getting things right.

“If you make a mistake it helps you correct it straight away so you can answer it in the future.”

Celebrating the ambition and achievements of both the school and the student, Queensbury Executive Head Teacher, Mr Chris Wilson, added: “I am so proud of our students and Maths Department setting new boundaries in special educational needs challenge.

“It demonstrates the high aspirations we have for our families and students at Queensbury School.”

For more on Queensbury School visit www.queensburysch.com

To learn more about Eedi visit www.eedi.com

NEWS: Queensbury School officially launches £2.3m new school site

Words by Ed King / Pics by Ed King & Nandini Gill

On Thursday 26 January, Queensbury School officially launched their new £2.3m school building – which has been operational for students since the latter part of the autumn term 2022.

Queensbury School – situated on Wood End Road, Erdington – received panning consent in September 2021 for the redevelopment of their existing school site, breaking ground later that year.

Now part of the Education Impact Academy Trust (EIAT), alongside Wilson Stuart School, Queensbury delivered their new build in November last year – only a few thousand pounds over budget, despite delays and supplier strangleholds due to Covid-19.

Welcoming school governors, academy members, and partners from the Local Authority, this week Queensbury School Executive Headteacher Chris Wilson introduced a “new beginning” for the Erdington Special Educational Needs (SEN) school – which had previously been rated ‘Inadequate’ in its last Ofsted report.

“It will allow a bit of time, and a bit of space,” continued Mr Wilson, explaining how the sensory concerns of their students had been pivotal in the project – with Queensbury’s School Council even designing the new play area between the school hall and new facility.

A special address was then given by Steve Hughes, the erstwhile CEO of Education Impact Academy Trust, who told how the Local Authority once asked him “has this school (Queensbury) got a future,” and how “this is now a school to be proud of.”

A presentation of artwork celebrating the Lunar New Year, short stories, and poems – all signifying “new beginnings” – was then made by Queensbury students, before the official ribbon cutting and tour of the new school site.

Housing seven new classrooms, the new build had further been “futureproofed” by extending floor space to allow more space and flexibility in the immediate teaching environment. National guidelines recommend a minimum of 52m² for up to 30 students, whilst the new classrooms at Queensbury School are 63m² for no more than 12 students.

Alongside enhanced facilities for direct teaching, there are three new ‘calm rooms’ where students can use music or sport therapy to work through overriding emotions – alongside an isolated ‘work room’ for those needing extra space to focus on their studies.

Each ‘calm room’ has special LED lighting to encourage emotional equilibrium, whilst all the classroom lights are on variable dimmers to allow for a variety of sensory responses from the students.

Queensbury now also had a dedicated ‘therapy room’, for more one to one attention, and a ‘confidentiality room’ where a team of eight mentors can engage with families, parents, and carers. In the previous school layout, all these pastoral activities had been conducted wherever there was available space, with the school’s mentoring team based “technically in a shed.”

Queensbury also now has extended areas for outside play, where children can get the benefits of an outdoor environment – a powerful positive to Mr Wison – and engage with the school’s three ‘therapy dogs’: Eddison, Henry, and Odie.

Queensbury School became part of the Education Impact Academy Trust (EIAT) in September 2021, after plotting a course towards becoming an academy several years earlier. Alongside Wilson Stuart School (Erdington), Hive Collage (Erdington), and Mayfield School (Lozells), Queensbury School is one of four SEN and SEND providers in the Multi Academy Trust portfolio.

With capacity for 276 students at the Wood Lane site, Queensbury School caters for young people from 11 to 19 – with plans to extend their 6th Form provision with a new site on Station Road, hoping to welcome 96 new students into further education in the next academic year.

Queensbury’s current Executive Headteacher, Chris Wilson, began working with the school in November 2018, “falling in love” with the Erdington SEN provider and eventually taking over the top spot.

Steering Queensbury through difficult waters, inducing the threat of closure and a damning Ofsted report, Mr Wilson is now confident in a bright future for the once troubled school – explaining how the new development quite simply “gives the staff the tools they need” to offer the best educational experience.

Mr Wilson continued: “The new building gives us the facilities and the resources for our students and staff to allow them to unleash their limitless potential and create further opportunities for many years to come.

“It’s opening the creativity of the teachers back up, because they’ve got more space to work with and an environment that’s right, and no doubt that will lead to better outcomes for the students – as well as our students being proud. It was very difficult to make them proud of the school when the building was in such a dilapidated state.

“They haven’t got that now, and that means when they take their place in society those preparation for adult skills are fostered within them and integral to their values as well.”

For more on Queensbury School visit www.queensburysch.com