Drug House Closure, Meir ““ A Tale of Stoke-on-Trent Community Spirit

Broadway is a leafy part of the Meir Park & Sandon ward, bordered by Longton High and its grounds, the A50, and the shops on Weston Road.

It is comprised largely of privately owned terraced and semi detached houses, Broadway has a very active Residents Association and long time residents will tell you how not so many years ago, properties in this area were put up for sale and sold within the week, so desirable an area was it.

However in recent months, an issue of growing concern has been festering away in Broadway ““ and today saw it finally burst. Just after 10am this morning, District Judge Taylor granted permission for Staffordshire Police to close a property on Broadway Place for two months, following a catalogue of statements from local residents and others about activities at the property since the beginning of the year.

From the front door of the property, it is less than 20metres to the entrance to Longton High, and some of those who came foward to provide the evidence for the closure included teachers and others connected with the school. The sale and use of Class A drugs from the house caused massive concern for everyone in the locality ““ characterised by multiple visits, day and night, to the property, leading to arguments and shouting at all hours, causing great distress to neighbours and other residents.

The district judge commented that there was “Ëœoverwhelming evidence’ that the activities taking place at the property caused disruption and distress to local residents and the school, and also commended local residents for standing up to this serious nuisance in their neighbourhood. He said he hoped that this would be a clear example to others elsewhere in the City that there is hope for their community to be protected against such behaviour.

The court order was unopposed and hours later the house had been secured, with a number of large posters, giving details of the order, on display. Houses in the area were also leafleted to inform them of what had happened. When I visited the property this afternoon, there was an air of calm around the area, with a steady stream of local residents coming to see if what they’d all been hoping for had finally happened. Several residents I talked to spoke of their relief, explaining that they’d just had enough in the end and were more than happy to help the police with evidence to return their neighbourhood to how it had been.

As a local councillor, today has been full of ups and downs ““ to listen to the evidence behind the closure order, the day to day events residents and others lived through, was humbling, however to hear what that same community did, working with the police to turn that situation around, was truly fantastic, and I have nothing but unstinting respect for those whose statements contributed to gaining the order, and for our local police ““ led by Insp Sharrard-Williams – in achieving such a good result for the community. Local councillors’ small part in all this was supporting the Residents Association and providing money for securing the premises, something we were all more than happy to do.

Last night, the house in Broadway Place remained dark and empty, and hopefully residents will have their first night of decent sleep in quite some time, while the message goes out strongly into the local community that drug dealing and anti social behaviour are not acceptable here anymore.

Altogether Company Brings Apprentice Style Project To Stoke-on-Trent

The Stoke On Trent Apprentice challenge is a brand new Ward funded summer youth project aimed at young people aged between 13 -19.

The project will see up to and possibly more than 100 youngsters from 6 different council wards – Longton North and South, Meir Park and Sandon, Blurton, Weston and Meir north and Trent Vale working together to start their very own businesses.

Each week they will meet at Fenton Manor to be set a challenge related to their business start-up. Then they will meet in locations within their ward areas to be mentored in the stages of setting up by the company directors at Altogether who have experience of setting up business at a young age.

They will run their business throughout the summer and the winners of each week’s prize will be invited to a prize day each Friday.

I went to Longton High School’s City Learning Centre to meet Ben Dyer from Altogether Company. Watch the video below to hear about this inspiring project.

I also spoke to some of the potential ‘Alan Sugar’s’ who had set up a wide range of companies with ambitions portfolios to entice the potential investors into parting with some advice and some cash. Listen to the Audio below:

Stoke Beats The National Average For Pupils Getting 1st Choice Schools

91% of parents were allocated their first choice of secondary school for their children compared to the national average of 83%

Staffordshire schools did even better by allocating 95% for parents their first choice schools.

Last year there were issues surrounding the allocation of places at Sandon High School.

A number of parents whose children would have attended Longton High School were refused places at Sandon High on appeal even though Sandon High officially takes over Longton this year.

This year it seems that there is no repeat of this problem and it would appear that everyone who expressed Sandon as their first choice, got their wish.

Parents applying for primary school places will find out their fate end of this month to receive their offers.

OFSTED VISIT LONGTON HIGH – WHAT A RESULT!

As Vice-Chair of Governors at Longton High, I am delighted to report to everyone at Pitsnpots that, just before half term, Ofsted visited to carry out a 2 day inspection, and the result was great! The actual judgement from Ofsted was “good”. This in itself doesn’t sound too exciting, but when you consider it’s only one judgement below “outstanding”, it shows just what good teaching and learning is going on at Longton High, despite the difficult circumstances it finds itself in.

Here are a few quotes from the Inspector’s letter:

“The overall effectiveness of how creative learning is developed was judged to be good“.

Achievements and Standards
“Results in Key Stage 3 have risen sharply from 2004, and in 2008 they met the school’s challenging targets. Standards at Key Stage 4 have also improved, with vocational courses in the creative specialist subjects supporting students to overcome a range of barriers to learning and to make good progress overall.”

Quality of the Curriculum
“Innovative timetable arrangements enable talented Year 7 students to learn alongside high performing students in Year 8, to accelerate their progress in science, for example.

Extra-curriculur activities such as a street dance group are exploiting the performing arts expertise. They are also enabling students from different backgrounds to collaborate well and build their communication skills as they pass on their skills and enthusiasm to primary school pupils.”

Leadership and Management
“Leadership and management are promoting and embedding creative learning well….. they see it as the most effective way to raise standards, promote inclusion and community cohesion, and to maintain a high level of commitment to continuous improvement across the whole staff in the face of students’ increasingly challenging needs and suddenly falling rolls as a result of the school’s planned closure.”

Equality and Diversity
“The school promotes equality and diversity well. The gap between the standards reached by students from minority ethnic heritages has been reduced. Lesson planning consciously considers the range of learning styles that need to be accommodated. “

On behalf of Pitsnpots bloggers, I would like to publicly congratulate the Headteacher and every member of staff at Longton High on this fantastic Ofsted report. I would also like to thank them for all their hard work, commitment and loyalty to the school, in what are very stressful and uncertain times.

What is absolutely certain is that the LA needs to get behind these staff, to support them fully in securing their future. There are now positive signs that this is starting to happen. This result shows that Longton High has some fantastic staff who fully deserve the support of the Local Authority.

And let’s not forget the kids in all of this. They too did fantastically, many of them spoke directly to the Inspectors, and students also impressed the Inspectors in the lessons they observed. Their parents should be proud of them.

To all Longton High parents and students out there – be proud of your school. It might be closing, but it’s doing well and we have an Ofsted result to prove it. Well done to everyone! Please feel free to add messages of support and congratulations….

Longton High Leaders Hit Back!

There has been quite a debate raging on the Sentinel website. It as emerged out of a letter to the newspaper by BNP activist T Cope from Tunstall. It has attracted a lot of responses from a number of posters. One of the posters is Councilor Joy Garner who is also the Leader of the Labour Group on the Council. Obviously Joy is entitled to her say and i fully endorse all local politicians using the Sentinel and pitsnpots to get their views over to us the electorate. We here on this blog have contacted all councilors and urged them to read and contribute to this blog as we believe it will promote good debate. Joy has opposed the BNP and has refuted their claims that there was trouble at the anti-BNP rally held at Central Forest Park last Saturday. In a speech to their followers local BNP leader Alby Walker had claimed that the UAF had “kicked of against the police”.
pitsnpots were at neither so we can’t comment on whether there was trouble or not. We have several issues with the local Labour party as we believe it is wrong that their councilors have been effectively gagged from speaking out against the Elected Mayor even though privately a number of their councilors have told us that they are not in support of the Mayor.
In a post on the T Cope letter I left a post asking Joy Garner to come out and state her intentions for the future as i had been told by a source that it was possible that she would seek the Labour nomination for the post of Elected Mayor should the city decide it wants to keep this system or, she would be the Labour leader if the city prefers that system. I got this response:
Mr Walley.I think you should take some English Comprehension lessons from the excellent teachers at Longton.The way you missundstood me, that there is no gag – merely common sense, and to keep to the issues. And apologise profusely to the Head of Longton High, because – and I quote you – “and yes, in 2001 particularly they did stir up some tensions with a few ill thought out and factually incorrect leaflets at Longton HS. Fact is we have a BNP Councillor now as Governor” (info – M.Coleman, chair of Education scrutiny com).A few leaflets – the police were there daily. They caused riots amongst the children, some carried knives for ‘protection’. And its that, not the schools teaching, that is now bringing forward its closure. The head and teachers have always had my support, They hit lows and picked themselves up. With only around 40 pupils a year now applying to attend – it can not be viable. You are the Vice Chair of Governors there. You should know better than this.
Joy Garner, Tunstall
commented on 24-Sep-2008 09:57
This post prompted this response:
Joy i post as i speak, not how i would write a letter. For the record look at your own spelling and comprehension ie understood and starting a sentence or paragraph with “and”. Now a few facts, a) i am the chair of governors at Longton HS.b)BNP leaflets came after a pupil from a neighbouring school came onto the school grounds an assaulted a yr11 Asian boy with a baseball bat. c) students did not carry knives at all, you really should not believe everything you read in the media! d) not a single Labour councilor put him/her self up for the LHS governing body so i assume that your party and you as leader have no issue with the fact that the school is represented by M Coleman (BNP). e) i have always thought that there is a high standard of teaching at the school, never said anything different. f) the reason there is only 40 applying to the school is down to the disastrous plans for the school put forward by the LA over the last five years. You can have my phone number and we can discuss anything else you may wish to raise. With respect i still would like an answer to the questions i asked about your intentions for the future.
Tony, Meir Hay
The SLT at Longton High were told of Councilor Garners comment and yesterday they posted this response:
Councillor Garner
I am responding to your comments on this website in support of the school, its staff & present & former students.You need to get your facts straight before you print false details, you should not believe everything you read in the Sentinel! Fact in 2001 (September 12) following an incident caused by a student from a neighbouring school coming on the premises to cause trouble, intruders not connected with the school did attempt to cause trouble during the lunchtime.The school acted promptly to ensure the safety of the students by bringing them all into the building and calling the police to remove the intruders. A very small number of students were either given fixed term or permanent exclusions for trying to “jump on the band wagon”.There were NO riots, NO knives were found – the police can confirm this & in fact the school was complimented for its handling of the incidents by an HMI team.Yes, it was a serious incident in terms of the potential but it was dealt with. Yes, the police did come to school in the days following because we requested their presence in case intruders appeared again. They were very supportive and sensitive to the students.Therefore, I object to your comments re. riots, knives and the police visits. In the interests of my students I would always follow the line of asking for a police presence if I felt it protected our young people from outsiders. The school provides a very calm working environment as experienced by your fellow councillors who have visited us.Yes, the school isn’t viable in the long term but it isn’t only 40 wanting to join us – and how much do you think the decline in numbers is the responsibility of a council who has been telling our parents that the school is going to shut for some time now.In fact, we have just met with a representative group of parents who do not want their children to be educated anywhere but Longton and not by any staff but Longton’s.If we have always had your support why do you print emotive, inaccurate details about us. It is very upsetting to staff and pupils and totally unfair.

Longton High School & Arts College, Longton
commented on 26-Sep-2008 14:55
Whilst I really respect Councilor Garners stance on the BNP, to see these instantiated comments on Longton High is somewhat disappointing to say the least from someone as respected and who as given an enormous amount of her time to the city. I urge Councilor Garner to contact the school and speak to the Head to resolve this issue. We here at pitsnpots would also ask Joy to post on this blog her thoughts and comments on the BNP, the gagging order, her intentions for the future and to share with us her vision for the city. There is no ulterior motive in this request, merely a desire to hear a Labour voice in a city and climate where only the BNP seem to want to be heard.
For those of you who want to read the whole thing you can find it by clicking here: