Sink or swim

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Brownhills School was a Community School for many years, and is a Specialist Sports College. Sadly, it’s facilities no longer seem to be serving the community. Old(!) Imagery from Bing! Maps.

Last week, I was contacted by reader Susan Croxford, who related some troubling news about the termination of evening swimming facilities at Brownhills School at Deakin Avenue.

The School has had for many years an excellent pool, which has been a popular and well used facility, erected for the school and community when the school became a ‘Community School’ in the late 1980s. To this end it’s been serving everyone well ever since.

However, recently, the school have decided to no longer open the pool to the community in the evenings.

From the letter Brownhills School have sent out, this could be a closure of all Community Facilities, but I’m unclear on that and welcome feedback. Obviously, if this is the case, this is a terrible blow for community activities in Brownhills.

Susan contacted me to say the following:

Hi Bob

Thanks for your tweet.

I’ve taken my children to their weekly swim lesson tonight and got handed a letter from the Instructor with very disappointing news. I don’t know if you are aware but swim classes take place pretty much every night of the week at Brownhills School, meaning that hundreds of kids will lose their lessons and I think us parents might struggle to find capacity elsewhere.

Would appreciate any help or support with this.

Thanks
Sue

We live in an area with a huge amount of open water – from the canals to Chasewater to Ryders Mere, it’s vital that kids learn to swim for their own safety and fitness. I therefore find this situation quite concerning.

Brownhills School have issued the following letter:

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Not waving, but drowning: Brownhills School sent this letter to Mr. Wildman, of Aqualympic Swim Schools. Click for a larger version.

24.1.14

Dear Mr. Wildman,

Closure of Community Facilities

At a Governor’s meeting on January 16th 2014 a financial review of community provision was presented to Governor’s(sic). This showed that community use was unsustainable as it is not making enough income to cover outgoings. School budgets cannot be used to subsidise community use and therefore Governor’s(sic) have taken the very difficult decision to end community provision from March 31st 2014. There will be no community provision from Easter 2014 onwards.

I am writing to inform you of that decision so that you can try to find alternative facilities for your club/activity/user group. I am sorry to be the bearer of bad news, however the economic downturn has impacted heavily on income and we have no alternative.

Yours sincerely

Helen Keenan
Headteacher

Keith Parr
Chair of Governors

Aqualympic Swim School, whose classes Susan’s children attend, also issued the following letter (the photo Susan sent of this was a little too poor to use, so I transcribed it):

Aqualympic Swim Schools 

Dear Parent,

Many of you may have heard the bad news recently regarding the future of Brownhills Pool.

The Governors have made the decision, following a financial review of Community provision that the pool is unsustainable as it is not making enough income to cover outgoings and the school will no longer cover the pool costs.

I personally find the decision extremely bizarre and very disappointing, as the pool will remain to be in operation during the school day, therefore heating, electric, staffing etc. will still be paid by the school, however, community users like myself, who pay competitive hourly rates for the pool are being axed?

I have been in contact with Helen Keenan by email regards this matter and her reply was, and I quote, ‘The Governors decision is final!’

I have been operating sim lessons out of Brownhills Community School since the 1996 (one of my first pools) so this decision to close the pool from March 31st 2014 has obviously come as a complete shock to me.

Since receiving the letter (enclosed) on Saturday, 24th January 2014 I have so far written to the following people:

Keith Parr, Chair of Governors
Richard Shepherd, MP for Aldridge & Brownhills

Mr. Wildman also notes that at the time of writing, he’s tried to contact all three Brownhills Councillors, and was still awaiting a reply – they may well have done so since.  He states he will keep pressing them for assistance, which would of course, be welcome.

Such community facilities are the lifeblood of our town – providing physical exercise, companionship and engaging activities. For Brownhills to lose the wide range available at the normally excellent Brownhills School would be a crying shame, and I implore anyone who shares our concern to contact the school and their Councillors.

I understand times are tough, but this seems very shortsighted indeed, and I do hope a resolution can be achieved.

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27 Responses to Sink or swim

  1. wozelbeak says:

    i finished managing football teams at “the comp” back in 2009. I am fairly sure Helen wanted the school use by community groups to cease then. it a utter shame that these kids can’t get out and enjoy their swimming any more. Still at least its more time available to them to play on theor games consoles.

  2. Edwina. says:

    It seems that cutback are the reason … My son and his footie pals have been informed that their Tuesday evening football practise night is to cease very soon. They are all having to look elsewhere for a local venue at a price to suit all of the lads. It is pretty disgusting when everyone is harping on about lifestyle and obesity and they go and close a facility that actually helps folk to keep fit and healthy, but then we are Brownhills and to be fair nobody gives a fig about us do they?

  3. peter says:

    Evening all……….. I’m just trying to think how long ago the UK last held the Olympics! Was it in living memory? Oh yes I’ve just remembered it was 20 months ago! A sporting legacy for future generations! Bollocks if you live in Brownhills though, cutting back on Football sessions and now the Swimming lessons, what a joke. Walsall Council and the Browhills Comp obviously dont care less, so the pool will still operate during the day but not at night, how much is that going to save then? I wonder if the difference between the income the school was getting from Aqualympic and the “cost” as they see it was more or less than a new Jaguar car! We’ve already seen a proposal elsewhere that could mean kiddies parks and recreation areas are less maintained and if anything breaks then it won’t get fixed but simply removed, the potential saving there was exactly the same as the cost of the Mayors new car.
    The swimming lesson capacity in the area is not enough as it is already, parents want their kids to learn to swim, why not put the prices up, to the parents, and cover the costs? Not the most popular suggestion ever I know that, but it seems that the provision / capacity will go very quickly and there will be no swimming lessons in the Brownhills area.
    Finally my congratulations to all those at Walsall Council and the School, and my congratulations go to everyone involved at the Council who decided to put Childrens fun, health and wellbeing second behind a new car for the Mayor, well done everyone.
    Mind how you go………………

    Peter (Late mid 40’s)

  4. Rich Burnell says:

    I have lived within a stones throw of there for years and didn’t know the pool was open to the public. A pity more effort was not put in to increasing revenue before the ‘cost saving’ decision was taken. It could have been a lovely project for students to see if they could grow the commercial side of the operation, perhaps the school managment team could consider this.

  5. stymaster says:

    Rich, on top of that, this is a “knows the cost of everything and the value of nothing” issue.

  6. Andy Dennis says:

    It looks as though there has been no consultation with users or taxpayers on this. The governers have put their collective foot down and that is that. It would be interesting to see the financial appraisal and whether it says how much more income would be necessary. And whether that would be affordable.

    Where are the other options? Burntwood? Oak Park?

    • LL says:

      Waiting list at Burntwood leisure centre Is 2 years! There has been no consultation with users either. A very selfish decision on behalf of the school

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  8. Lee says:

    How sad, a shinning example of our Olympic legacy. Maybe a consultation with other schools who do run facilities the same such as Cheslyn Hay would have been a better option before taking this stance. I know times are tough but if other schools can and Brownhills cant they’re possibly missing somthing. To me whilst budgets are stretched this smacks of the easy option..

  9. Laurence Thacker says:

    Why not work out the increase needed and at least ask various groups if they can afford the extra, rather than just assuming extra funds cannot be found and close up shop ? Or am I missing something ?

  10. LL says:

    Also applies to super sharpens swim school. Both my children attend on Mondays and we had same letter. Although we live in Burntwood, the waiting list at Burntwood leisure centre is at least 2 years – ridiculous. I think there is more too it than cost as swim schools give revenue to the school surely as they already heat, light and clean the pool for school use!

  11. Harry says:

    Judging by the poor grammar and use of English in most of the comments, maybe your readers should go back to a decent school for a better education. Walsall schools are a disgrace and Brownhills outshines most. Locals should be celebrating their luck at having a good school and a decent headMISTRESS. Sad to see Brownhills people are as short sighted, mysognistic and as dumb as ever. Nothing changes.

    • Pedro says:

      Sir,

      I can see that you are a well-educated chap by the use of the gerund, in the “perfect” sense, at the start of your comment. Or is it a present participle?

      Gosh, I will have to check again in “Practical English Usage” by Michael Swan.

      Pedro, University of Life, (Reading Gas Meters)

    • Andy Dennis says:

      Perfect grammar does not always convey one’s message as forcefully as some other forms of “less academic” English expression. Clarity is the key.

      My main points, however, are:

      1. I do not see any connection between criticsm of a decision by school governers and an attack on the headteacher (who, for all I know, may or may not agree with them) and therefore does not equate to misogyny.

      2. I do not see why a school cannot be successful both in educating its students and opening its doors to the community at appropriate times. Indeed, this may have been an important component of the success that you rightly praise.

      M.A. …

    • Hello Harry

      One trusts that you kept the receipt from the charm school – I fear a refund may be in order.

      Bob

  12. David Evans says:

    Sir,
    “misogynistic”. Try writing it out a hundred times. neat handwriting, lined paper.
    David., local Brownhillian, 20/20 vision, vocal chords intact.

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