BACK TO SCHOOL: Greenwood Academy Live celebrates over 100 inspiring performances

Words and pics supplied by Greenwood Academy

For just over a year, students at Greenwood Academy (GWA) have been showcasing their talents in a special regular event called GWA Live.

Through GWA Live, young people at the Castle Vale secondary school have been developing their performance skills on stage and building confidence, whether they are just starting out or are more seasoned performers.

Students are involved off stage too, getting to work on operating lighting, sound, and visual equipment for the productions.

The monthly events are championed by Assistant Head Teacher Trevor Evans, who has led the school’s performing arts programme for many years – helping to produce some spectacular school productions and talent showcase events.

Mr Evans hopes the GWA Live events will encourage more self-belief and cohesion in and out of the classroom.

“GWA Live also embodies ‘The Greenwood Way’,” told Mr Evans, “an approach that we are rolling out encompassing all areas of school, instilling a sense of belonging for all pupils and making school a great place to be not only between 9am and 3pm but beyond.

“It’s about supporting, encouraging, and building our school community.”

From April, the GWA Live events will be expanding to include a headline act each month and to offer further support from the school’s Community Team – helping budding artists to develop their performance skills and live presentation.

For more on Greenwood Academy visit www.greenwoodacademy.org

Greenwood Academy 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: ‘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.**

NEWS: Erdington parents ‘threatened with fines’ for children not returning after half term

Words & pics by Ed King

Ed’s note… The images used in the article are archive pictures of schools in Erdington and ARE NOT RELATED to the people who have supplied quotes or their children.

If you have been affected by any of the issues raised in this article, or have any updates or developments from a school in Erdington, please get in touch – you can send us a direct message via the Erdington Local Facebook page or email sue@erdingtonlocal.com

As schools reopen after the half term holidays, families across Erdington are being ‘threatened with fines’ if they still feel the classroom is not COVID-19 safe and keep their children at home.

Despite another national lockdown closing the country from 5th November, parents and carers are being told that all young people must go back to school this week – or literally pay the price for any absences.

Birmingham City Council had previously taken the stance to not impose the fixed penalty notices, which had been set by the Department of Education in July, electing to wave the fines for the first half term.

But as school gates open for the last few weeks of the Autumn term, families keeping their children at home could be charged up to £120 for every empty chair they now leave in the classroom.

With increased concerns over the rising cases of coronavirus, many Erdington parents and carers feel they should be allowed to choose what is best for their children – without facing even more debt due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Natasha Court has two children at primary school in Erdington, she says: “I believe it is completely wrong that the City Council are threatening parents with fines for actively carrying out their duty of care to protect their children whilst still ensuring they are being educating them at home.

All children need an education, 100%, but a ‘one size fits all’ approach is not appropriate, particularly in the midst of a worsening health pandemic.”

She adds: “I have two children with health conditions who would both be at heightened risks of serious complications should they catch COVID-19. I have my own health conditions too. No matter what schools do, they cannot protect our children in a class of 30.

Fines will hit the financial and mental wellbeing of the families who are already struggling. So the ‘alternatives’ they are left with are to send them to school and be put at risk, or de-register and be let down by the system that is supposed to help ALL children get a strong start to life through education. This is not right nor fair.”

Another Erdington parent, who wished to remain anonymous, said: “I have been threatened with fines from the Council if I now don’t send my child into school.

This is completely unfair. How can they tell me school is safe for my child when they have already had cases in the school?

With cases and deaths rising sharply now all I want to do is protect my whole family, yet I am unable to do that due to potentially being fined.

Attending school during a pandemic should be the parents’ choice to make.”

Schools across Birmingham open for the final weeks of the Autumn term from Monday 2nd November.

As set by the Department of Education in July this year, fixed penalties of £60 can be imposed for any absentee child – increasing to £120 if not paid within 21 days.

Minister for Education, Gavin Williams, announcing fines on LBC Radio (first broadcast on July 29th)

For the latest information on coronavirus restrictions in Birmingham, issued by Birmingham City Council, visit www.birmingham.gov.uk/coronavirus_advice

For the latest information on the lockdown starting from 5th November, issued by Government, visit www.gov.uk/guidance/new-national-restrictions-from-5-november

FEATURE: Concerns and mixed emotions across Erdington more children go back to their classrooms

Words by & pics by Ed King

From 15th June, more Erdington children will be brought back into their classrooms – as Government guidelines encourage ‘face to face time’ with Years 10 and 12, whilst giving primary schools ‘greater flexibility to invite back more pupils.’

But as the school doors are increasingly creaked open ahead of the summer holiday, parents and carers across Erdington are still voicing their concerns – according to a constituency wide survey conducted by Erdington MP, Jack Dromey.

When asked, nearly two thirds of Erdington’s parents and carers had doubts about their children returning to the classroom – with over 50% stating: ‘I do not think children should be going back and I will not be sending my children back.’

Over half of these fears were rooted in educators being unable to implement adequate physical distancing, with the ever present worry that there would be ‘an outbreak of the virus in school.’

Approximately a third of parents and carers were worried about a ‘lack of PPE and safeguarding’ – with a similar concern expressed over there being no ‘testing available’ for young people returning to traditional education.

But a significant number of parents and carers identified concerns over mental health and wellbeing, with 56% stating ‘Children finding the social distancing measures upsetting / unsettling’ as a pertinent concern.

In response to questions about what would build confidence, around a quarter of parents and carers wanted clearer ‘information’ and ‘understanding’ from both Government and educators – with 56% stating ‘Headteachers, teachers and teaching unions being confident it’s safe’ would help allay their fears and concerns.

However, as voiced by much of the country, a significant fall in new cases reported or the introduction of a vaccine would be the best way to build public confidence – with 73% stating these as the most inspiring sign posts on the road map through the coronavirus crisis.

In response to the findings of the survey, Jack Dromey MP – who has represented Erdington in the houses of Parliament since 2010 – issued a letter to Education Secretary Gavin Williamson, addressing ‘the actions that are urgently needed to instil confidence in parents that schools are safe for their children.’

‘There can be no doubt about it,’ the letter continues, ‘we need to ensure a return to school as soon as possible. But crucially, this can only be done when it is safe. Children across the country are missing out on vital education, especially those who are due to take exams this year.’

Erdington Local also reached out to parents and carers across the constituency, asking what school life was like for the children who had returned to their classrooms.

My youngest son went back to nursery last Monday,” tells Sarah Hodgetts – whose son, Harry (4), attends Paget Primary School Nursery.

His school have put so many new procedures in place that I had originally said no but changed my mind and so glad I did. School is very safe and even at age four he understands and follows instruction. His mental health has been the best improvement; he’s a happy child again. 

We’ve gone from him worrying about everything to sleeping well again, wanting to play at home more and more settled in himself, definitely did the right thing allowing him to go back to school.”

Laura Crowley, whose child Jessica Rose (6) went back to Birches Green Junior School on Monday 15th June, tells “I have not long collected my daughter from school. She came out with a huge smile on her face and when asked if she’s has a good day she replied ‘yes’ –  she also said ‘social distancing was fun’ which reassured myself that teachers and staff are trying to make the whole situation a positive one for the children.”

Alongside a “staggered approach to children coming in and out of school using the one way system,” Jessica Rose is also “now in a class of seven rather than 32… called their ‘family bubble’.

All children have their own desks and packs containing any resources they will need for the day, to ensure they’re not touching/sharing equipment. They’re not allowed to take coats into school and are required to be in a clean uniform every day; PE will also be done in uniform to avoid PE bags been taken into school. 

The school communicated all changes very well, on the school website a video was uploaded showing these changes to allow us parents to show these to our children prior to sending them back to school.”

However, local mum Maria Rooney has been keeping her son Billy (5) at home since the lock down began – choosing to continue home schooling and not send him back to Abbey RC Primary Schoolas the medical advice seems to be at odds with Governmental direction. Press have warned there may be an imminent second wave of the virus so we chose to keep Billy at home for the moment.

We start ‘school” at 10am each morning,” continues Maria, “and try to do around 2.5 hours each day with snack breaks in between.

We also have a 4 year old who’s just left nursery so coordinating activities to suit both has been my biggest challenge. We’ve mostly created our own ideas for learning – bugs and habitats in the garden, outer space and our planet – along with the maths apps from school, craft making and art. 

The communications from the school have been adequate and they’d kept us updated as they’ve been updated. I believe the schools don’t know the government’s plans until the last minute – which has been much more frustrating for the school staffing community rather than the parents.”

But whilst parents and carers are making individual decisions about the safety and schooling of their children, one thing seemingly unites them – the need for clearer guidelines from Government and more support for educators, many of whom have been forced into making radical changes to their classrooms with little practical advice.

A clarion call for clarity reiterated by Jack Dromey MP, who states: “I am calling on the Education Secretary, and the Government, to work with the Labour Party to build a cross-party consensus around the return to school that would give parents the confidence that sending their children back is safe. 

We need to end the chaos and confusion and build a unity of approach around the return to school for the good of the nation.” 

For the latest news and developments from the Department for Education, visit www.gov.uk/government/organisations/department-for-education

For more from Jack Dromey MP, visit www.jackdromey.org