BACK TO SCHOOL: Students from The Hive College invited for special dinner at Chung Ying Cantonese Restaurant

Words & pics by The Hive College

Last week Live 2 students from The Hive College were invited to a special dinner at Chung Ying Cantonese Restaurant in Birmingham.

It was a great experience for the students, some of whom have never been to a restaurant before! It also provided them with the opportunity to practise the skills they focus on in college, and to help them prepare for adulthood.

Speaking about their experience, the students gave a message of thanks for the kind hearted staff at Chung Ying. They told: “Thank you for having us at the restaurant and thank you to all the staff. Thank you for the free food and drink it was fun trying to use the chop sticks. Thank you for letting us take some back for one of our friends.

“The food was amazing; thank you for that and thank you for refilling our drinks. it was nice meeting you, we hope we see you again. From Live 2.”

Recently graded as ‘Outstanding’ by Ofsted, The Hive College uses field trips and experiences outside the classroom to help prepare their students for adulthood.

The visit to Chung Ying allowed them to all choose what they wanted from the menu and place an order with the waiter. And of course, it was a chance to socialise and have fun with their friends.

A spokesperson from The Hive College added: “We are extremely grateful to Will and his team at Chung Ying for their generosity and making us all feel really welcome.”

For more on The Hive College visit: www.hivecollege.org.uk

For more on Chung Ying Cantonese Restaurant visit: www.chungying.co.uk

The Hive College is part of the Erdington Local BACK TO SCHOOL programme, working together to celebrate school life from staffroom to classroom.

To find out more about going BACK TO SCHOOL with Erdington Local please email: edking@erdingtonlocal.com

 

BACK TO SCHOOL: The Hive College students visit Kier Highways

Words & pics supplied by The Hive College

This morning we travelled to Kier Highways.

At Kier, they led us to a big entry point where trucks come and go – so we had to be careful of oncoming vehicles. We then geared up with PPE (helmet, gloves, and a hi-vis). After that, we used a weed killer but there was water in it.

Next, we saw the truck that grits the road with salt when its slippery.
Next, we watched a demonstration of how to paint a road with road directions.
After the demonstration, some of the students did some road painting with sand.

After that, we walked into an office and went to a meeting room and we listened to a presentation about what Kier was all about and all the different sectors that all the employees operate in. While in the meeting room, the employees talked about the entry requirements and the experience that you need to get the job.

The Kier employees talked about the history of Kier; it’s going to be 100 years since the company started in 4 years time. We were thrilled with excitement as they gave each of us some goody bags and in the goody bags was a bottle and a notebook.

After they showed us to a warehouse where all the boxes with the road signs get placed, and after they take the road signs out of the box, they get flattened by a machine.

All around it was a great day.

For more on The Hive College visit www.hivecollege.org.uk  

The Hive College is part of the Erdington Local BACK TO SCHOOL programme, working together to celebrate school life from staffroom to classroom.

To find out more about going BACK TO SCHOOL please email: edking@erdingtonlocal.com

BACK TO SCHOOL: Wilson Stuart School students thrive in five day adventure at Bendrigg Lodge

Words & pics supplied by Wilson Stuart School

Thirteen students from Wilson Stuart School embarked on a transformative five-day residential experience at Bendrigg Lodge in the picturesque Lake District. The trip aimed to provide fully accessible outdoor and indoor activities, fostering personal growth, and emphasising the school’s CIRCLE values.

The students embraced a range of activities, from caving and rock climbing to canoeing and the exhilarating zip wire. The immersive experience not only tested their physical abilities but also served as a platform to enhance their confidence, a key aspect of the school’s values.

For many students, this marked their first time away from home, presenting a unique challenge met with absolute positivity. The resilience and maturity displayed by the students throughout the trip earned them credit as outstanding representatives of the school.

Looking ahead, Tom Elmes, Associate Head of Secondary, expressed anticipation for a similar adventure with the upper school in the summer term.

Reflecting on the impact, Mr Elmes remarked: “The opportunities that the residential trip gives to our students are outstanding. All of our students surprise themselves with what they can do, and the smiles all week speak volumes.”

Trip leader Leigh Noble emphasised the enduring value of the experience, stating: “The skills that students gain away from home at a centre like Bendrigg are skills that they will take with them for life – a truly unforgettable experience for all.”

BACK TO SCHOOL: Wilson Stuart students spend five days at Bendrigg Lodge (pics by Tom Elmes)

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

Wilson Stuart School is part of the Erdington Local BACK TO SCHOOL programme, working together to celebrate school life from staffroom to classroom.

To find out more about going BACK TO SCHOOL please email: edking@erdingtonlocal.com

BACK TO SCHOOL: Celebrating World Book Day at Queensbury School

Words & pics by supplied by Queensbury School

There was a definite buzz around school on Thursday 7 March as Queensbury were celebrating World Book Day in style.

Both students and staff participated wholeheartedly in the event by dressing up as characters from books. The pupils initially joined in an assembly which informed the students on why reading is important and how they could have difficulty accessing the whole curriculum if they can’t read and understand text.

Equally they learned how not only is reading a life skill to keep safe in the future but it is an enjoyable pastime to escape the stresses of the day and also enrich and widen their knowledge.

Throughout the day the pupils were engaged in fun, creative reading activities including book quizzes, writing lyrics to songs, being illustrators and designing front covers to name a few.

However, the highlight of the day was when local children’s author Alan Stott delivered a presentation about what was the inspiration for his stories and how to develop writing skills.

Overall, the day was a huge success promoting a love of reading, inspiring illustrators and authors of the future in a fun and creative way.

For more Queensbury School visit www.queensburysch.com

Queensbury School is part of the Erdington Local BACK TO SCHOOL programme, working together to celebrate school life from staffroom to classroom.

To find out more about going BACK TO SCHOOL please email: edking@erdingtonlocal.com

BACK TO SCHOOL: Wilson Stuart School hosts sensory music experience for students

Words & pic supplied by Wilson Stuart School

In an effort to enhance the musical experiences of students across all age groups, Wilson Stuart School recently welcomed Mike Dryburgh from SENSE, a leading organisation in promoting inclusive activities for individuals with complex needs. The event aimed to broaden students’ access to music through innovative technologies.

Mike Dryburgh’s captivating music performance showcased the integration of music technology, featuring loop pedals and vibrating sound packs. Students not only enjoyed the immersive musical journey but also actively engaged in creating their own compositions using the cutting-edge technology.

Associate Head Tom Elmes, emphasised the profound impact of music on learners, providing sensory input and fostering a sense of joy and wellbeing.

Mr Elmes highlighted the significance of offering students new and enriching experiences, stating: “To have a new experiences from SENSE is a great opportunity for our students and one in which we will look to repeat in the future.”

Executive Head Simon Harris also joined the action by conducting a student-led performance, offering a unique interpretation of Nirvana’s classic ‘Molly’s Lips.’ The event successfully brought together the school community, promoting inclusivity and showcasing the transformative power of music for students with complex physical and medical needs.

Wilson Stuart School continues its commitment to providing a holistic and diverse education, ensuring that students have access to a wide range of experiences that contribute to their overall development and wellbeing.

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

Wilson Stuart School is part of the Erdington Local BACK TO SCHOOL programme, working together to celebrate school life from staffroom to classroom.

To find out more about going BACK TO SCHOOL please email: edking@erdingtonlocal.com

BACK TO SCHOOL: Staying safe online at Queensbury School

Words & pics by supplied by Queensbury School

Queensbury School in Erdington marked Safer Internet Day on 6 February. This global day of internet safety awareness is now in its 20th year.

The school had Safer Internet Day assemblies, complete with interactive quizzes where the form groups faced off against each other in a test of their internet safety knowledge – happily there were a huge number of correct answers.

Throughout the week, students have talked about cyberbullying in particular and how to be a conscientious user of the internet community.

One Year 9 student pointed out that, “the internet is meant to be helpful, to make things better and easier.” It is this attitude that Queensbury aims to instil in its students.

The school was also supported by Birmingham East’s School Liaison Police Officer, who led sessions with individual classes highlighting the risks of internet use presented in the context the local area and schools.

This followed on from a parent workshop on internet safety that took place at the school a week prior.

The main outcome desired is that all children know how to behave online, and that if they have any concerns at all not to hesitate to simply ask a responsible adult.

For more Queensbury School visit www.queensburysch.com

Queensbury School is part of the Erdington Local BACK TO SCHOOL programme, working together to celebrate school life from staffroom to classroom.

To find out more about going BACK TO SCHOOL please email: edking@erdingtonlocal.com

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