Brownhills School: News of community facilities withdrawal spreads

Thanks to Lee Kettle at the Walsall Advertiser, this important local issue has received a wide exposure.

Thanks to Lee Kettle at the Walsall Advertiser, this important local issue has received a wide exposure.

Recently, as many readers will be aware, I covered the shocking story of how Brownhills School – formerly Brownhills Community School – has elected to stop all community access to its facilities, resulting in a large degree of disquiet in the town. This abrupt and apparently un-consulted move will leave community groups and sports clubs with no premises from which to operate, and seems a somewhat retrograde step from a school that formerly enjoyed a position at the very heart of the community.

I’m pleased to note that the Walsall Advertiser has picked up on the story, and an extensive and thorough report can be read at the newspaper’s website here. In it the head, Helen Keenan, bemoans financial constraints, but fails to indicate why consultation wasn’t apparently carried out. It also appears that valid criticism of poor communication is considered somehow unsporting.

The report is very illuminating.

Untitled 7

The Advertiser’s new website is great. Click the screenshot to visit it and read their report.

What shocked me most is a letter written to, and published in the same edition of the paper by Doug Birch MBE, on behalf of the Local Committee. This letter makes excellent points, and I agree with it wholly, which must be the first time in recorded history this has ever happened. When I realised, strong tea and a sit down were very much in order.

I include the letter below, as it isn’t available online:

News brings our biggest concern

AS A group of volunteers, Brownhills Local Committee have worked tirelessly over the past two decades to further the cause of Brownhills. But the latest news to come to our attention has probably brought about the biggest concern for some time.

Brownhills Community Technology College has announced that all user groups are to be asked to look elsewhere to hold their activities. So now football pitches will stand idle at weekends and drama groups will probably cease to exist, along with many other numerous activities that volunteers throughout our community have worked hard on for many years.

The decision has been agreed by the school governors, but the reasons for this action are a bit clouded to say the least.

Money, or lack of it, appears to have caused the demise of pool activities while a minor incident seemed to trigger a negative response to a drama group.

Other rumours abound but nothing we’ve heard so far seems unsurmountable, only the resolve. So much for the Olympic legacy which we all got so excited about a few months ago.

We would urge all Brownhills residents to write to MPs and councillors in an attempt to get this decision reversed, or at least get the school to put a statement out giving the reasons, and so quashing any rumours that may or may not be true.

Douglas Birch, MBE,
Brownhills Local Committee.

Nice one, Doug. I have to salute you there.

I will restate my views on this: Brownhills has stuck by that school through the bad times. We worked together to raise funds for facilities and equipment. We valued the facilities it shared, and watched as it became a school we could be rightly proud of. Now it seems, for whatever reason, the community that provided support has been kicked in the teeth, with no discussion as to alternative solutions. Even if these couldn’t be found, the act of undertaking the process would have shown a degree of consideration and empathy critically not evident at the moment.

This isn’t about the head, who generally has my respect, or the Governors for that matter. It’s not about the educational activity of the school, which is clearly exemplary these days. It’s about a sudden, peculiar and seemingly hasty business decision, the execution of which seems oddly and uncharacteristically hamfisted.

It is very sad to see Brownhills School so crudely snub its community. This is a tragedy, and I hope a better resolution might be found.

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24 Responses to Brownhills School: News of community facilities withdrawal spreads

  1. Andy Dennis says:

    Spot on, Doug! And Bob.

  2. Dean Howdle says:

    This is an outrage. One positive point which kept the community together. I feel sorry for all the groups effected. Drama classes, kids sports classes, Adults Bowls, and that just a few of many that my close friends and family have enjoyed at the centre until recently.

    I’m sorry but I do feel ashamed of the Goveners and the Head for not supporting the community, which many of them are part of.

    Government cuts – seems to be used too frequent as part if an excuse too if you ask me.

  3. mickysix says:

    Just a thought! Ofsted call this place Brownhills Community Technical College, is this still the case, or are Ofsted not up to date? Strikes me that the word community does not exsist within this building anymore!

  4. Pedro says:

    The HeadMISTRESS says that they have tried, with courage and determination, and have failed. Well, it was despite their best efforts.

    Hold on. Face reality, should have been stopped years ago, stop casting slurs on the governors. My decision is final.

    Sounds a bit like Judge Judy!

    (HeadMISTRESS, I think this is the best grammar according to Harry, who says you should be celebrating the luck of having such a person)

  5. Harry says:

    Ofsted called it the correct name since 2010-Brownhills School. I was a Governor for a few years.
    [Partially edited for legal reasons]
    Four community secondaries left in Walsall are all in Special Measures. That can’t be a coincidence. We may not like it in Brownhills when a woman makes a tough decision but it is the 21st century so get over it. If she were male, she would be called “brave.” We should be grateful that despite everything thrown at the school, it is doing so well. And I don’t remember her getting support from community when Serco wanted to shut it.

    • Pedro says:

      If she were male, she would be called “brave.”

      Sorry Harry, and followers of the Blog, but can’t resit

      If your aunt had ****s, she’d be your uncle!

    • Harry

      I may have misunderstood, but I thought the Head was making it clear that she was an unfortunate courier of the Governor’s(sic) will – are you saying this isn’t the case?

      I repeat, this isn’t about the Head, and the quality of the current activities of the school educationally are not in question. Just the handling of this one, single issue.


    • Andy Dennis says:

      Harry, you really should stop digging. “Tough” and “brave” are not gender-specific in my world. Neither is necessarily correct. Yes, it is 2014 and the headteacher is not a man. So what? If the headteacher were a man would you be so cosseting? Would he be any less right or wrong? It is clear that the lady concerned is highly competent, committed and has considerable courage to take up and sustain so challenging a role. Though now you imply she is merely a hostage to fortune (as I write).

      Nonetheless, there is a wider point, which is eloquently made by Doug and Bob.

      Oh, and who, exactly, is the “real community”? On University Challenge there was someone researching complex systems simulation; maybe he could help?

    • Harry says:

      Partially edited for legal reasons my eye. Rub out the bits you don’t like perhaps? The truth hurts. As for Pedro- crude, unfunny and well past his sell by date.

      • Harry

        I will make this perfectly clear.

        I will not be host to third party, unverifiable attacks on others. If you don’t like that, don’t let the door hit your backside on the way out.

        I very, very rarely edit what’s here and when I do I make it clear I have done so. Had I wished to stifle debate, I’d have just binned your comments. That never has, nor will it be, the way this thing operates.


        • Pedro says:

          You could be right there Harry! Do you mean I’m ready for the knacker’s yard?

          Oh sorry H, I did not mean knackers in the vulgar sense. Good job I used the apostrophe!

          I have tried to throw off my crude working class background, I really have, but it always comes back to haunt me. Nothing changes!

          I appreciate that it must have been difficult for you, as a Governor, amongst the dumb and short-sighted (note the hyphen) people of Brownhills.

          Just what are the qualifications needed to be a school governor?

  6. Harry says:

    And for the record, barely anyone in the real community use the facilities .

    • Harry

      I’m unclear what denotes the ‘real’ community.

      Would you be suggesting that the community is complex, in that it contains real and imaginary parts?

      Sounds like a job for a mathematician.

      In the meantime, I suggest you google the Swim School, Brownhills Colts, the Indoor Bowls Club, Brownhills Musical Theatre Company and contact them, explaining to them that they are not actually extant.


      • Pedro says:

        Interesting fact I found the other day, while re-learning English Grammar, was that Einstein was not particularly good at spelling in English. But he certainly knew how many beans made five.

    • wozelbeak says:

      Harry, please! i spent my school years attending the “comp”. I left school and used the community bar on regular occasions (Weddings, Birthdays, and Christenings) during my post school years.

      My children all attended Brownhills community school and have flourished. I spent 14 years as part of “Brownhills community colts”, managing teams for most of that time.
      Each year i/we would repair all of the pitches, with the colts paying for the materials to do so.

      Those concrete steps that have taken school children and community users from the changing rooms to the grass (previously a muddy slope) were put in by me as part of the colts some 10 years ago. All this was done for the joy of being part of a community.

      We used to help set up for “disabled persons sports day”. I would imagine that event has now gone by the wayside.
      Most of the colts’ managers who incidentally all lived within a couple of miles of the school would attend to give organisers a hand.

      The school’s teachers would enter teams into our “lads and dads” tournaments, which took place on summer evenings. There would be crowds of pupils and family there watching the games, Halcyon days.

      Your “barely anyone in the real community use the facilities” quote, may not be built on facts.

    • Peter says:

      Hi Harry, If you are so sure of the facts about the “real community” barely using the facilities why don’t you provide the proof?
      For you to be so sure, and prepared to put “on record” there must be evidence somewhere?
      Or maybe Wozelbeak is a figment of imagination?

      ………………………. I shan’t hold my breath.
      Mind how you go.

      All the best Bob and keep up the good work……………..

  7. myolddesk says:

    Once upon a time, there was a decent but not exeptional school that was transformed by opening its doors to the local community.

    In the process, examination results improved, pupil attendance increased and the Brownhills community was encouraged to get involved in its local comp.

    Be in no doubt. This was a great community school

    Hats off to Chris Hunt and crew. Shame on those who have brought this about.

  8. David Evans says:

    Hi Bob

    Perhaps Harry would kindly inform readers of when he became a governor of that school, his attendance record at governors meetings,of when the school attained its trust status, when Serco deemed the school to be in need of remedial measures( or needed to be “shut”! as claimed), and when and under what circumstances he left the board of governors for that school. Perhaps it would be best, in the circumstances, to receive this information ” straight from the horse’s mouth”, as it were.

    Meanwhile, I look forward to reading the clarification by the present board of governors that Mr Doug Birch has called for, and for the reasons he states.
    Then , perhaps the present board of governors will do their utmost to support the school’s pupils and teachers by securing replacement revenue from alternative sources., and thus reassure staff and pupils alike that they are working in their best long-term interests.

    kind regards

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