NEWS: West Midlands Mayor Andy Street set to invest £400m in social housing in Stockland Green and across the region

Words and pics by Erdington Local editorial team

West Midlands Mayor, Andy Street, has secured £400m from Central Government in an ambitious new plan that will see the West Midlands Combined Authority (WMCA) invest hundreds of millions in social housing across the region.

Mr Street announced the new policy at social housing provider Nehemiah Housing Association, an organisation based in Great Barr and with properties in the Erdington constituency.

Launching his mayoral election campaign at Stockland Green School on 21 March, the West Midlands mayor further identified Stockland Green as an area the WMCA will be looking at on “how to improve the housing stock”.

The plan, which was secured ahead of the mayoral election on 2 May, will be the first time the West Midlands Combined Authority has directly funded the building of social housing.

It became possible after Mr Street petitioned Government for £400m investment into the WMCA Affordable Housing Programme, which had reportedly previously only been allocated 50% of that budget, as part of the Deeper Devolution Deal agreed last year.

 

Having secured the multi-million pound social housing investment fund, which will be overseen by the West Midlands Mayor, Mr Street hopes the new plan will attract national media attention and become the blueprint for social housing provision across the country.

Mr Street told Erdington Local: “I want to do this because housing is key to solving so many problems in our region. People might find it strange a Conservative Mayor would care so much about social housing, but I know we could do so much more.”

He added: “The £400m I secured is key, it was a red line for me when signing the Deeper Devolution Deal with the Government.”

The chronic lack of quality social housing across Birmingham is a major factor why Erdington became a hotspot for Houses of Multiple Occupancy (HMOs), assisted living properties, and exempt accommodation.

Now a widely reported and recognised national concern, Erdington Local first covered the frightening reality of those living in HMOs and Exempt Accommodation in August 2020 – with a series articles written by a reporter who has lived experience of the problems facing thousands across the country.

(Click here to read the first story in the series, titled ‘EXPLOITED: HMOs – when greed meets vulnerability, carving up communities for a profit’.)

Following the initial article published by Erdington Local, many other media outlets then covered the topic in depth – with titles from Birmingham Mail to The Guardian all shining a much needed light on the issue.

Mr Street continued: “This kind of plan is a real third term policy as we have been working towards this since I was first elected.

“Housing has always been top of my agenda, prompted by Erdington Local’s investigation into HMOs and assisted living I lobbied the Select Committee in Parliament to look into the problem.”

He added: “This policy is about building new homes, but we will continue to look at how to improve the housing stock in places like Stockland Green.

“This is about building quality social homes for rent for people who want to have a home to call their own – people like key workers, nurses, and young families.

“By partnering with organisations like Nehemiah, we will be building real communities too – that are nurtured by supportive housing associations.”

Despite securing the funding, the WMCA will not actually be building new homes or improving existing social housing themselves – but would instead partner with organisations who have experience in the sector, such as Nehemiah Housing Association, Witton Lodge Community Association, or The Pioneer Group on Castle Vale.

Using funding from the Affordable Homes Programme, Mr Street has promised to triple the current rate of 500-700 homes built by housing associations in the West Midlands to 1,700 per year by 2028.

Mr Street launched the policy at Nehemiah Housing Association, which the organisation’s website describes as providing ‘quality, affordable housing together with wellbeing services to ethnically diverse communities across.’

The housing association has more than 1,250 properties serving the multicultural African, Caribbean, Asian, Irish, and European communities across the West Midlands, including Erdington.

Martin Levermore, Vice Chair of Nehemiah Housing Association, said: “We are celebrating our 35th anniversary this year. Social housing is so important but Government policy changes so often it can be hard to keep up.

“It’s incredibly important that we build enough Social Housing, and the devolution of funding for Affordable Housing could be a game changer for the region. Housing associations like Nehemiah not only build homes, we build communities; so we look forward to seeing how we can play a role going forward.”

For more on Andy Street visit www.andystreet.org.uk

For more on the West Midlands Combined Authority visit www.wmca.org.uk

Click here to learn more about the West Midlands Mayoral elections on 2 May.

NEWS: Andy Street announces £2.4m careers advisor fund during mayoral election campaign visit to Stockland Green School

Words and on location pics by Erdington Local

West Midlands Mayor Andy Street chose Stockland Green School to make his first major policy announcement of his election campaign.

Mr Street visited the Slade Road secondary on the first day of his official campaigning for the mayoral election to announce if re-elected on 2 May the West Midlands Combined Authority (WMCA) will pay for 40 careers advisers for schools in some of the region’s most challenged areas.

The plan has been costed at £2.4m with funding already identified by the WMCA.

Mr Street announced the policy at Stockland Green School due to its successful careers programme, which was launched after the legacy of lockdown saw work experience plummet and face-to-face careers sessions with pupils drastically decline.

Mr Street told Erdington Local: “This school has been praised by Ofsted for its commitment to careers advice, but sadly across the West Midlands the same not can be said for all schools.

“There are still too many young people who are not getting the right opportunities and guidance during the critical years when they are deciding what to do for work.”

He added: “30 per cent of our children have not had work experience; one in six have never had face-to-face careers advice. And as usual it’s the schools in the most challenged areas which have these problems.”

Mr Street, who credits his economics teacher as the catalyst for his journey into the business world – which saw him run the department store giant John Lewis from 2007 to 2016, before entering politics – is concerned youngsters will turn elsewhere for crucial advice if denied access to careers experts.

He continued: “In a world where youngsters are getting their career advice from people like Andrew Tate on social media, having trusted local grown-ups in schools is more important than ever.

“I spoke to children in this school today and they all had a spark, a passion, and an idea what excited them concerning jobs – and for children like these, they need help to give them advice about how to get to where they want be and fulfil their aspirations.”

As announced today, if Mr Street is re-elected as West Midlands Mayor schools which score high on the pupil poverty indicators will be able to apply to the WMCA for funds to employ a dedicated careers officer.

Stockland Green School, which is part of the Arthur Terry Learning Partnership, was praised last year by Ofsted for the “tenacious” approach of staff in driving up student aspiration.

Assistant headteacher, Katerina Lee, is also responsible for the careers advice in the school. She said: “The pandemic caused so many problems with work experience, and with careers advisors not meeting pupils we wanted to do something about it.

“We work with local companies to get our pupils the routes to the jobs and careers they want. However, it is hard. And it would be wonderful to have a full time careers advisor… in fact we could do with lots, their work is so important.”

She added: “It is not like in previous years, where pupils would be given a pathway to industries which would open their doors for work experience and then a job offer would be at the end of it.

“We have to work hard identifying the needs of pupils, like our SEN (special educational needs) children, it is very important to identify their needs very early on.”

Headteacher Rebecca Goode began working at Stockland Green School 16 years ago before getting the top job in 2022.

She said: “Our pupils enjoyed telling Mr Street their aspirations and what they want to do when they enter the job market. Giving them access to careers advice is a really important part of making that happen.”

Mr Street, who won the previous two West Midlands mayoral elections, promised to keep the region’s youngsters and children at the top of his agenda. He believes improving their economic prospects is key in both their success and that of the wider West Midlands.

He added: “This is one of those areas where we just haven’t had the budget, powers, and responsibility to sort this until now. But I will get a grip of career education if I’m re-elected in May.

The West Midlands Mayoral election is being held on Thursday, 2 May. Candidates include the incumbent Conservative candidate Mr Street, Labour’s Richard Parker, Reform UK’s Elaine Williams, and Sunny Virk for the Liberal Democrats.

For more on Andy Street visit www.andystreet.org.uk

For more on the West Midlands Combined Authority visit www.wmca.org.uk

Click here to learn more about the West Midlands Mayoral elections on 2 May.

BACK TO SCHOOL: ‘Ambitious’ Stockland Green School impresses Ofsted inspectors with ‘tenacious’ approach to safeguarding

Words & pics supplied by Stockland Green School

Staff and students at Stockland Green are celebrating after inspectors praised the school as a place where “leaders care deeply about pupils’ well-being”.

Ofsted inspectors, who visited the site in Slade Road, Erdington, on 14-15 February, confirmed that Stockland Green School remains a ‘good’ school, and praised it for its “family approach”.

They also praised safeguarding and wellbeing measures at the school, which is part of the respected Arthur Terry Learning Partnership.

Head of School Rebecca Goode said: “We were delighted with this Ofsted report, as we really saw the inspection as an opportunity to showcase our school, to show the inspectors the very best of our team and our students, and help them understand the journey we are on as a school.

“The report talks about us as a ‘family’, and how we really care for our children and about our safeguarding work being ‘tenacious’ – because we are very driven as a team to ensure that our children get the very best in all aspects of education.

“However, it’s not just about grades and results – it’s about ensuring that we give the very best to our young people.

“We always want to ensure that the children have the belief to be whatever they want to be, and that ultimately they become fully rounded citizens who are going to contribute positively to the community.”

According to the Ofsted report, pupils at Stockland Green are happy, and say that they feel safe.

It said: “This is because leaders care deeply about pupils’ well-being and they make sure that staff know pupils well.

“When bullying occurs, pupils say that teachers help resolve the issue quickly and make sure that it does not happen again. Leaders have ensured that the school’s values of ‘aspire, believe and achieve’ are shared by all staff. This has created an environment where there are high expectations about how and what pupils will learn.”

Inspectors said the school’s leaders actively promote pupils’ wider personal development.

It said: “Well-being weeks linked to lessons provide a range of valuable experiences that help make learning real. Most pupils take part in extra-curricular clubs or activities.”

The school was also praised for creating an ambitious curriculum for all pupils, including those with Special Educational Needs.

It said: “Teachers have secure subject knowledge, and they know their pupils well. They create purposeful learning environments for all pupils, including those with SEND. Teachers also use a range of routines to help pupils learn.”

On safeguarding, the report said staff were motivated to prioritise wellbeing.

It said: “Staff morale is high, and they are proud of the role they play in pupils’ education. Leaders make sure that safeguarding is of the highest priority for staff.

“They provide regular training and updates. Staff are vigilant, and quick to report any concerns they have. Leaders are tenacious, and they follow up all concerns raised.”

Headteacher Marie George said: “I’m delighted for Mrs Goode, her team, the students and the community that Stockland Green has been recognised in this way.

“It’s a great achievement, especially when you consider the impacts of the pandemic, which were compounded in our own community, around Stockland Green.

“The school’s response has been to make sure that our children have a safe place to come to, that they are loved and cared for, and get an ambitious curriculum, which was also recognised by the inspectors.

“By taking that caring, ambitious approach, we give our children real life chances, to ensure that they are equipped to go on and meet the demands of the world around them.”

For more on Stockland Green School visit www.stockgrn.bham.sch.uk

**If your school would like to be part of Erdington Local’s BACK TO SCHOOL pages then please email edking@erdingtonlocal.com – with the name of your school in the subject box.**

BACK TO SCHOOL: Erdington MP declares Stockland Green School at the ‘heart of its community’ during special visit

Words by Gary Phelps / Pics supplied by Stockland Green School

Erdington’s MP has declared Stockland Green School at the “heart of its community” after a special visit to meet students and look around the site.

Paulette Hamilton went to the Slade Road school, which is part of the Arthur Terry Learning Partnership, on Friday, 27 January, and was given a tour of the facilities, popping into lessons along the way to speak to pupils and staff.

The Member of Parliament also listened in on a hard-hitting presentation by reformed criminal Gary Williams, of the Precious Lives project, which warned of the dangers of crime and knives.

Finally, she sat down in the school library to be grilled by Stockland Green’s student leaders, who asked her about life as an MP, her background as a nurse, her family, and the importance of education.

They also told her about their work for Red Hand Day on 12 February, which is part of an international campaign against the use of Child Soldiers.

Mrs Hamilton said: “It has been a fascinating visit to Stockland Green – the thing that struck me as I was shown around was just how quiet the school was, how well behaved the children are, and how they seemed to be absorbing the information they were being taught in the classrooms.

“I also thought the presentation by Precious Lives was absolutely brilliant. Gary, the young man who was speaking, just held the attention of the whole room – because he was clear, concise and passionate, and I really think the students could identify with what he was saying.

“He had a very important message, and I think it’s great the school invited him to speak.”

Mrs Hamilton said she had been impressed by the student leadership team too.

She added: “I thought the student leaders were fantastic. Their questions were well thought-out, they presented themselves well and the subjects they asked me about were quite hard-hitting, so I couldn’t just give a one word answer.

“I’m hoping that through my answers they’ve got to know a little more about me, and the work of an MP.”

The MP also praised the school for its efforts to connect with the community it serves.

Mrs Hamilton told: “I’ve lived here for 35 years and so I know the area and its people well, and the incredible sense of community there is here.

“I think Stockland Green School is a perfect example of that community spirit, because the school doesn’t just care about what happens inside the classrooms, it cares about what happens in the children’s homes too.

“It’s a school that’s right at the heart of the community, and I saw that during my visit.”

Stockland Green Head of School, Rebecca Goode, said: “We were so grateful to Paulette Hamilton for making time in her busy schedule to come in and meet our students and see what goes on in our school.

“She was really interested to find out more about how we reach out to the community, and impressed by the Precious Lives presentation that was also happening when she visited.

“The students leadership team also really enjoyed getting to spend time with her and ask her questions. They even got her autograph at the end.

“Our school is about supporting our children to be safe and to make positive life choices, to be active members of their community and contribute positively when they are adults.

“Visits like this are really valuable in helping the students understand that they are part of a broader community, as well as showing them what they can achieve if they work hard.”

For more on Stockland Green School visit www.stockgrn.bham.sch.uk