BACK TO SCHOOL: Caligo – a short story by Daniel Selwood

Daniel Selwood is a student at The Hive College who has been involved in our LOCAL AMBASSADORS programme, as well as contributing to our BACK TO SCHOOL pages for his college.

A gifted prose writer and a veracious reader, Erdington Local is proud to help support and develop Daniel’s writing.

She was beautiful. She had long dark hair, a dress of midnight blue, and high heels that added inches onto her already formidable height.

Domnic Darkly felt underdressed, even in his best shirt. He hadn’t combed his hair in weeks and as a result it looked like something left in a spin dryer too long. His glasses were round, and he was becoming more and more aware of how dirty they were.

“Domnic?” she asked. Her accent was unplaceable, like every voice in the world stewed up and served.

“Yes,” said Domnic, in his West Country drawl, marred and bitten at for living in Birmingham for so long.

She stepped back. Domnic stepped in. The hall smelt familiar – like childhoods and happiness. As Domnic admired the collection of leather-bound books, her soft but strong hands grabbed his cheekbones with their death-pale fingers.

“You look just like your photos, darling, like a tough ‘n’ teak mountain man…” she whispered, and ran her tongue like a red slug over her purple lips.

“You didn’t send any pictures,” said Domnic, nervous then calm. “And I don’t know why – because you’re…” his eyes lingered on her chest, “you’re beautiful…”

“Thank you, my liebchen,” she said, and walked like a film star into her cavernous kitchen. “Would you like water, or wine?” she asked.

“Erm, water,” said Domnic. Stone statues of unrecognised Greek gods were visible through the kitchen window – dressed in real cowls. He thought he recognised some of them from a news report, something to do with back packers who were acting stupid and vanished.

“Erm, Caligo?” he asked – her name, an unusual name, one that sounded like a wine. “Where did you say you were from, again, sorry?”

She winced, then slid back into herself. “All o’fer, really mois fleur,” she said. “I, er, ‘ow-dja-say, treaded the boards…”

“You were an actress?” asked Domnic.

Water thundered into a glass. Caligo looked at him, “Pardon? Oh yes – actress, yes…” She put the glass of water into Domnic’s hand, and whilst he wasn’t looking mixed a fine line of powder into his drink.

“You look good for fifty,” said Domnic, feeling more assured. He was forty-five and obvious with it; a mix of alcohol in the ‘80s, ciggies and drugs in the ‘90s, and an attempt to settle down in the ‘00s. Caligo was charismatic. Caligo was cool. All he had was the look of a humanised gorilla, a twenty something daughter who ran off to Malaga with her girlfriend, and a wife who set fire to his clothes before chucking him out. The words, “you can stay with Calligraphy or whatever her name is…” echoed round his memories, that, and the smell of charred cotton.

“I have the kiss of life,” she laughed. “Now drink up my love… and we’ll see my garden.” She smiled without out showing teeth.

It was the last thing he remembered.

Domnic woke up outside. Cold. Naked. He couldn’t place where he was or when he’d arrived… just a jump, like a dream. But he’d seen those statues before – the one with chiselled cheekbones, the thin seedy one, the round one, too.

“Nice, isn’t it?” she asked. It was. Wherever it was. He couldn’t remember his name.

“I love this place,” she drooled. “I bought it in 1920…”

“19… but it’s 2024!” cried Domnic.

“Oh, mon chéri. I have long life. I am – er, ‘ow you say it? Vampire,” cackled Caligo, as Domnic placed his hand over his neck.

Caligo looked at him and laughed so hard a dog barked a few streets away, then went quiet. “I don’t suck blood, I kiss… and drain the life from my darling, wunderbar boyfriends.”

She leaned in and placed her lips firmly on his. It felt dangerous, yet pleasant. He didn’t fight. Her breath tasted sweet, and rich, like the zest of orange on a dense, dark cake.

Domnic turned to stone. His face was wonderfully wistful. Caligo lifted Domnic and placed him in line. She draped him in a toga before going inside – the sun was rising…

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 WITH Erdington Local please email: edking@erdingtonlocal.com

BACK TO SCHOOL: Getting excited by STEM at Queensbury School during British Science Week

Words and pics by supplied by Queensbury School

As part of British Science Week, Queensbury and New Horizons had a STEM day. STEM stands for Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics and these are all areas where there are skill shortages in the UK. These events encourage students to think about jobs and careers linked to STEM.

At Queensbury, Keyode Lewis came in to do some (very) low temperature demonstrations. Using liquid Nitrogen, Keyode did experiments using flowers, meringues, fruit, and other objects.

The finale was an experiment to see what happened if you mixed a very hot liquid with a very, very cold liquid – with some explosive results. The students were intrigued and fascinated by the demonstration and hopefully one or two will be inspired to follow a science pathway.

Another highlight was when students created self-powered cars using recycled materials. They worked together to design and build cars from items like cardboard and plastic bottles, learning about engineering and sustainability along the way.

Both these experiences sparked their curiosity and passion for science – they learned about engineering principles while building their cars and discovered the transformative power of extreme cold during the liquid nitrogen experiments.

Overall, British Science Week at Queensbury School provided students with an opportunity to explore and learn in a fun and engaging way.

The combination of building self-powered cars and conducting experiments with liquid nitrogen showcased the diverse and exciting aspects of STEM education.

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 with Erdington Local please email: edking@erdingtonlocal.com

BACK TO SCHOOL: ‘The Book Project’ sparks joy of reading at Wilson Stuart EYFS Pathway

Words and pics supplied by Wilson Stuart School

Wilson Stuart EYFS Pathway recently celebrated a literary extravaganza in collaboration with the charitable organisation, ‘The Book Project.’

In a remarkable gesture of generosity, ‘The Book Project’ donated over 500 books to the school, ensuring that each student could select and take home two books, nurturing their reading journeys and fostering a deep-seated love for reading.

The event, held at the EYFS department, was nothing short of magical. Students eagerly perused the diverse selection of books, each one a gateway to new adventures and endless imagination.

Adding to the excitement, students had the opportunity to purchase books using ‘Wilson Stuart cash,’ a unique initiative that empowers students to take ownership of their reading materials.

But the highlight of the event? Meeting the beloved character, the Gruffalo, who stepped out of the pages and into the hearts of the students, bringing their favourite stories to life.

Charlotte Davis, (EYFS Lead), and Kristal Bonner, (Literacy Lead), expressed their gratitude, stating: “Wilson Stuart extends a huge thank you to ‘The Book Project’ for their generous donation. We eagerly anticipate future collaborations to continue nurturing the love of reading among our students.”

This heartwarming partnership exemplifies the power of community and underscores Wilson Stuart’s unwavering commitment to providing enriching educational experiences for all its students.

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 with Erdington Local please email: edking@erdingtonlocal.com

NEWS: Official investigation finds Kingstanding councillor earned over £6000 whilst working in “a voluntary capacity” for Council SEND support service

Words by Ed King / Pics from Erdington Local archives

An official investigation has found Kingstanding’s Labour Councillor Des Hughes earned over £6000 whilst working for the Council’s criticised SENDIASS service – in what he claims was intended to be “in a voluntary capacity for a few weeks”.

SENDIASS is a Council run statutory service that supports young people with special educational needs and disabilities, which was found to be “85% non-compliant” in a 2022 review conducted by the National Children’s Bureau (NBC).

A report presented to the Council’s Standards Committee earlier this month, by public law barrister Matt Lewin, identifies the payments were made to Mr Hughes despite him having officially resigned from SENDIASS on the run up to Council elections in 2022.

It further identifies failings by Cllr Hughes to declare his roles as trustee on two local charities, Kingstanding Regeneration Trust (KRT) and SHIME@NechellsPOD – with the latter cited in the report as receiving over £120,000 from SENDIASS for office space rentals from 2020 to 2022, as discovered in a separate review of the service by KPMG.

The report continues to state that “no procurement process had been followed” over the rental agreements and highlights the Council’s exiting portfolio of available office space. It adds, “there were no signed contracts in existence” between the charity and the Council.

The investigation also addressed and held true allegations that Cllr Hughes used his access to HR management software to extend the contact of 21 agency workers at SENDIASS, whilst holding the elected position of Kingstanding Ward councillor.

It also found that Cllr Hughes “failed to disclose his continuing interests at SENDIASS” whilst attending Council meetings, with a focus on his position on the Education, Children and Young People Overview & Scrutiny Committee.

First employed by SENDIASS in April 2019, Des Hughes held the paid position of Parent Partnership Support Officer, working at least in part out of office space at the Nechells POD community hub.

Mr Hughes was not an elected Council member when first recruited by SENDIASS.

After being selected as Labour’s candidate for the Kingstanding Ward in March 2022, Mr Hughes followed official protocol and resigned his city officer role at SENDIASS – allowing him to campaign and, if elected, sit as a Kingstanding councillor without a conflict of interests.

However, findings from Mr Lewin’s investigation show Mr Hughes continued to work for SENDIASS until “at least” the end of August 2022, with invoices issued to his home address showing he received a further £6,189.96 from the service – referenced as ‘SALERY OVERPAYMENT RECOVERY Late Leaver’.

Whilst Cllr Hughes did not deny his continuing work with SENDIASS, both during his local elections campaign and subsequent role as Kingstanding Ward councillor, he told the investigation he was only intending to support a “good bunch of people” in a voluntary capacity and felt that “just running… and leaving them with” his cases to “share out and hand over just seemed a bit inconsiderate in the circumstances.”

When further questioned about the £6,189.96 he received after his official resignation, Cllr Hughes claimed he had not seen the invoices before.

He added: “…this might sound flippant, but if there’s money in the account when I go to the cashpoint, I tend not to investigate further.”

Addressing the rental payments made by SENDIASS to SHINE@NechellePOD, the Lewin report states “there is nothing in the evidence… that suggests any direct involvement in this agreement” by Cllr Hughes – but confirms rental payments to the charity are first seen on their accounts in 2020/21 after Mr Hughes’ appointment.

Des Hughes was a Labour councillor for the Kingstanding Ward from May 2010 to May 2014, and again from May 2015 to May 2018.

In March 2022, Mr Hughes was again selected as a Labour’s candidates for Kingstanding in the 2022 Council elections – alongside running mate Naziah Rasheed. He was elected on 5 May 2022 with 1350 votes, this highest of any candidate, and represents the ward alongside Conservative Councillor Rick Payne.

Complaints were made reportedly against Cllr Hughes last year, with the Kingstanding councillor formally notified of the allegations in August 2023 and an investigation beginning in September that year.

Following the allegations, Birmingham Labour party told Erdington Local they had placed Cllr Hughes under “administrative suspension”.

Only recently made public, following a Standards Sub-Committee meeting on 22 March, the investigation report presented to the Council prompted their decision that “Cllr Hughes had breached the Code of Conduct” for elected officials – citing seven individual cases, including points where Cllr Hughes brought “his role and the Council into disrepute”.

The Committee’s recommendations included stripping Cllr Hughes of his role of trustee at the Barry Jackson Trust and as the Council’s representative on the Board of the Birmingham Royal Ballet.

The Committee’s ‘Decision Notice’ further recommended Cllr Hughes makes an official apology to Council, and that “all reasonable steps to recover the outstanding overpayment of salary.”

Erdington Local has contacted both Cllr Des Hughes and Birmingham Labour for further comment.

For more on Cllr Des Hughes visit: www.birmingham.gov.uk/councillors/165/des_hughes

For more on Birmingham SENDIASS visit: www.birminghamsendiass.co.uk

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

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