April 16-20, 2018: Pegasus, Phoenix, Centaur; and the new Solihull Academy takes off!
It must be one of the most productive Heritage Lottery Fund projects in recorded history. Seven years after the final accounts were submitted for "Therapeutic Living With Other People's Children", one of its earliest seeds has borne fruit in spectacular fashion: This week Solihull Academy opened its doors to thirty one Year 9 students - students drawn from across the 15 Solihull secondary schools - "students for whom mainstream education is simply not working (for a range of reasons)" - "a game changer for pupils in the borough who really need the game to change"- "the difference for our students who have an urgent need for something different."
As these students met Jes the therapy dog on their way into the school this week, they were the first adventurers into what will become, by September 2019, a community for 110 students from Year 9 to Year 11. In visits and meetings before the school opened they will already have seen the transformation of a stripped-out office complex set in the midst of a busy business park, surrounded by residential neighbourhoods. They have a gym and outside courts, a kitchen so well appointed that their food will be prepared there, and 21st century environmentally-controlled rooms and facilities, brought to life by a richly diverse and experienced (and passionate!) team - and supported, in extremely interesting and creative ways, by local enterprises (echoing the pioneering support of Birmingham businesses and industries for the servicemen and work of the Northfield Military Hospital during the Second World War). As this first group of students comes in and out of the school they are walking alongside a building and courtyard still being transformed from offices and businesses into the "structured therapeutic environment" the school will step-by-step move fully into. In their way they are pioneers.
When he set the scene at the first meeting of the new staff group on Monday, April 16, Principal Stephen Steinhaus drew a straight line back to his first meeting with PETT archivist Craig Fees and the beginning of the collaboration on the award-winning "Therapeutic Living" project back in 2009. Craig spoke briefly about the PETT Archive, and brought into the room all those people whose lives are invested there, and who gave the "Therapeutic Living With Other People's Children" project its bouyancy and anchored it in an understanding of what is possible and why it is important. Going around the circle of staff, everyone spoke of the reasons they had applied to join in this adventure, and the experiences in which their personal and professional commitments to the approach and the students were anchored. The building manager, the IT guru, the pastoral staff, the teachers, the maintenance and support members, administrator, the chair of trustees, the principal, the whole small team of people.... And throughout the day we saw time and again the thought and care that had gone into every aspect of the environment and what will go (and is now going!) on there....
In his moment in the circle, and in the conversations which happened naturally throughout that first staff-team day, Craig brought in what he had learned from Ralph Gee, David Crane, Katy Pentith and many others who have given their stories and energies to the PETT Archive, but who are no longer here to share in what they have accomplished. This note is therefore especially for the rest of you, who were also there: Look what you've done! Those of you who were involved before the "Therapeutic Living Project", and since; members of the project, or friends and members of the Archive and Study Centre family since: Look what you've done. Look what you're doing. You are helping to change the future. Those young people and staff - that surrounding team of trustees and supporters - those families whose children are discovering Solihull Academy: there is a straight line back from you and your gifts of time, memory and care, to the futures they are about to have. Look what you've done! And look what HLF have helped to make happen.
Archives in action.