It's back to school for North Solihull

(23rd August 2007)

Regeneration specialists have long argued that education is a key plank in revitalising communities. Overhauling the built environment can raise living standards and improve aesthetics but developing the educational offer is crucial if a project is going to be sustainable in the long term. 

It is a principle that has found great resonance in North Solihull. Made up of the three wards of Chelmsley Wood, Smith's Wood and Kingshurst & Fordbridge, North Solihull will be completely transformed over 15 years, and those behind it have placed education as the cornerstone of the process.

Under the Regenerating North Solihull project, £1.8 billion is set to be invested in the area with the construction of 8,000 new homes, the improvement of 12,500 more, the construction of five new village centres, and at the heart of the scheme the replacement of every single primary school across the three wards. The area is home to 40,000 residents.

Alongside this work, which is being funded and delivered by the North Solihull Partnership, a consortium made up of Solihull Council, Bellway Homes, RSL Whitefriars Housing Group and regeneration specialists Inpartnership, the area is also seeing radical change in its secondary school offer, with every secondary school being rebuilt under the Government's Building Schools for the Future (BSF) initiative. Last year, North Solihull also gained a new campus for Solihull College, located in Smith's Wood.

Paul Hanbury, director of North Solihull primary school regeneration at Solihull Council, believes that history shows that schools, particularly primary schools, are key drivers for successful regeneration.

He said: "Huge resources have been targeted at challenging neighbourhoods in recent years and the evidence shows that it takes more than just new homes and facilities. To really make cultural changes to a community, the aspirations of parents must be raised so that they want to achieve improved outcomes for their children.

"Schools in general are currently undergoing major changes in the way they are expected to deliver local services to families and this has made them an even stronger focal point within their local community. Schools are no longer just about learning, but integrate a raft of local services including health, safety, citizenship and financial awareness, all of which in turn help create stronger communities.

"Schools, especially primary schools, also often employ many of its staff from the local community, and as such are a fantastically efficient way of getting positive key messages out to a wide group of residents. This is particularly true in areas like North Solihull where there are extended families across the area.

"A child born in North Solihull today will benefit from a new, local Children's Centre and neighbourhood nursery, a new primary school delivered as part of the £1.8 billion regeneration programme, a newly built 'Building Schools for the Future' secondary school, or one of the special academies, such as the Grace Academy, which opened in Fordbridge in September 2006. For further education, young people will have the opportunity to stay on at school or be a part of the newly opened purpose built campus, delivered through a partnership with Solihull College and the LSC.

"What we will have in place is a fully integrated and well resourced approach to a learning community from birth to adulthood, ensuring that tomorrow's residents are able to capitalise on the regeneration investment in the area."

Janet Bradbury, chief executive of North Solihull Partnership, said: "While the improvement of education is a national issue, what we discovered from speaking to the residents of North Solihull is that it is also at the very top of their agenda in terms of what was important to them.

"When the homes, schools and community facilities were first constructed in North Solihull in the 1960's, the investment in the buildings was not sufficient to enable them to be sustainable for the long term. To change this, the Regenerating North Solihull project is about working with the community to revitalise the area and ensure it is set for a sustainable and prosperous future. The £1.8bn investment programme is being undertaken over 15 years, which is over twice as long as it took to construct the area from scratch 40 years ago.

"The considerable investment we are committing to new primary schools in terms of design and facilities will help to raise aspirations, academic achievement and improve the quality of family and community life. We are now embarking on a count down until we can open the doors of the first new primary school and demonstrate to local people how important first-rate education provision is to the future for North Solihull."


Press release drafted by Alun Thorne. For more information contact Core Marketing, 0121 643 8151.