Jaynehowarth’s Weblog

Journalist and writer

Posts Tagged ‘Walsall

It’s time for Walsall to show its culinary mettle

with 7 comments

It’s fair to say that Walsall is an *ahem* poor relation to neighbouring Birmingham when it comes to fine dining.

The town does lack its one and two-star Michelin restaurants, although it does have a fine selection of chip shops and pizza emporia (I know many of the latter in particular).

But now is the time to put Walsall on the culinary map, people.

Will we find Walsall's Fanny Cradock?

The Channel 4 show Come Dine With Me is returning for a new series and it is looking for Walsall residents to take part.

Who wouldn’t want to see Walsall’s equivalent of this?


For those of you who are not aware of this show, it takes four strangers from the same town and each has to host a dinner party for the others. At the end of the week the most impressive host wins a £1,000 cash prize.

If you or anyone you know would like to take part then email leaving your name, address and contact number ASAP on: comedinewithme@itv.com or call 0871 200 3939.

And – no, I will not be applying. I don’t want to end up like this stressed-out woman:


Written by CommonPeople

August 9, 2010 at 10:41 am

Shame on Serco and the Schools’ Adjudicator

with 6 comments

This time last week, everything was clear in my mind.

As the parent of a Year 6 pupil, I had weighed up the pros and cons of each available secondary school; done the research; deconstructed the “lies, damn lies and statistics” over GCSE results etc; spent a total of ten hours walking around the establishments.

As a family, we’d discussed what would be good for our daughter. Our daughter said what her preferred options were. There were negotiations, UN-style.

But, with a week to go before the secondary preference forms (note the word “preference”. There is no parental “choice”), Serco, the organisation that runs education services in Walsall dropped a bombshell.

Thousands of us – all parents of Year 6 children in Walsall  – received a letter last Saturday to tell us that a rather important change had been made to one school’s admission policy.

One week before our forms have to be handed in.

Thanks to the Schools Adjudicator, the admission criteria for one secondary school – Shire Oak School – had been changed with immediate effect.

The adjudicator, Dr Elizabeth Passmore, agreed with objectors from a nearby primary school in neighbouring Staffordshire that the Shire Oak’s primary partner status did not pass muster.

Under the partnership, Shire Oak works with ten primary schools in the borough, helping with maths and science projects, getting youngsters from year 5 and up engaged in the subjects.

It is a partnership – not a feeder arrangement. While there were never any guarantees that those children from the partner schools would gain a place there, they did have an advantage because primary partner school was part of the admissions criteria.  It was criterion four – above the distance criterion that most schools impose.

But Dr Passmore – for a myriad reasons – made a determination that the criterion must not stand and must be removed this year. The decision advantages approximately 20 children at the school that appealed against the decision to the detriment of the 400+ children in the partnership.

It means for those of us who were including the school as one of the five preferences, we are now significantly disadvantaged. I – and many of my friends – do live outside of the catchment area (children on average live 2.132 miles from the school, as the crow flies).

The removal of this criterion now means we have much less chance of getting our children to this school.

Serco disagrees.

“No allocations have been made and no pupils will be disadvantaged by the decision taken by the Schools Adjudicator. The adjudicator’s decision is final and relates to the admission arrangements for Shire Oak College only, the admission arrangements for other Walsall schools are unaffected and remain unchanged,” said a spokesman.

Everyone disagrees with the fact that pupils will not be disadvantaged – the headteacher of Shire Oak, the headteachers of the primary schools affected, the parents and the local councillors all believe that there are significant numbers of children whose chances have been depleted because of the determination.

If the decision were not bad enough, parents have had to deal with Serco about this. At no point did the organisation, which won a 12-year contract to run education services in Walsall, think it a good idea to tell parents about the appeal that was lodged in July.

This was done, said Avril Walton, assistant managing director, because they did not want to “confuse” and “upset” parents unnecessarily.

Most of the time, the Schools Adjudicator determines no change when an appeal is lodged, she said. If we had been concerned about this, we might not have handed in our preference forms in on time.

This attitude has been cricitised severely by parents – including me – who have accused Serco of having treated them with contempt over the issue.

Even the adjudicator seems to have assumed that those affected by the outcome would have been informed.

Serco stands accused of distancing itself from this decision, which can only be overturned by judicial review or going to the Ombudsman, and failing to understand how parents might feel.

Its cavalier attitude towards the parents has deeply concerned many of us and has compounded the decision made by the adjudicator.

While the adjudicator has wrecked the chances of our children getting places at this school, the company running the education in the borough of Walsall has stood by without thinking of the consequences.

Shame on both of them.

Written by CommonPeople

October 24, 2009 at 8:45 am

Source of UFO scare revealed

with 5 comments

A ten-year-old girl from Walsall has been revealed the source of the UFO scare in the town this week.
Josie Webb, from Pelsall, said she had had no idea that her £6.49 balloon from Argos had been the cause of alien-life speculation.
The Express & Star revealed the story on Monday, June 29 http://bit.ly/rFgbn after retired teacher Mike Tunnicliffe took photographs of the cylindrical shape in the skies over Sutton Road.
He admitted he had been at a loss as to what it could be when he saw the 30ft balloon float towards the Mellish Road area.
But last night, it was discovered that the balloon was accidentally loosed by Josie and her eight-year-old brother Ben when they visited Aldridge Airport on Sunday lunchtime with their father, Chris.
Josie said she was surprised when she heard that her balloon, a present from her father, had resulted in so much UFO talk.
“I was only playing with it and let go of it by mistake,” she said. “I think it’s really funny that people thought it might be aliens.
“I didn’t mean to let it go; it was an accident.”
The original story in the local newspaper led to 10,000 hits on its website as UFO lovers watchers from across the world read about the mystery.
But the mystery was quickly solved when it was found to be a Science Museum balloon, sold widely around the country.
Josie’s mother, Julie, a foot health practitioner, said she had did not know her daughter’s accident had caused so much media speculation.
“So long as it didn’t cause an accident, I can see the funny side,” she said.


Written by CommonPeople

July 1, 2009 at 7:00 pm