The great news is that we now have two groups up and running. On Wednesday morning, I travelled to Mayfield School in Lozells to work with the five students who will run the project there, while that afternoon saw the third session at Victoria School in Northfield.
Mayfield’s secondary school site is like no other school I have ever been to. It’s a huge site with three schools; Holte Secondary and Lozells primary (both mainstream schools) sharing it with the special school for pupils aged 11-19. In places it is hard to see where one school ends and another begins, which I guess is intentional, but I hope to find out a lot more about that as the project progresses. The view from the school looks out over the striking skyline of Birmingham city centre.
The students, Rashaan, Josh, Eesha, Shakur and Hassanain had not all been to the presentation we did at the school in July, nor had the Teaching Assistant, Loretta, who did a great job of finding me a classroom where I could show them the film, as we were originally scheduled to be in the drama studio. There was a bit more catching up and learning about the project to do, but by the end of the morning I felt that they were all fully on board with what we want to achieve and proud to have the chance to be involved in the project.
We looked at some of the shocking language and the issues that people with Learning Disabilities faced in the past and discussed what has changed. Again, I was really impressed with their enthusiasm and how well they understood what the aim of the project is.
Mayfield has a primary and secondary school, so some of the young people have been there since the age of 5, although others transferred from mainstream schools and have a different perspective. For them, the idea that the school has been going for more than fifty years is hard to grasp, but it’s going to be a great experience learning about it together. In the 1960s, it opened as Mayfield School for the Educationally Subnormal, but it is now a very modern school with kids who want to learn and show what they can do.
The afternoon session at Victoria was moving into the more practical area of starting to look at interviewing techniques. Luckily, Barry the TA has plenty of experience working there and was happy to answer questions about his 26 years at Victoria and how it’s changed over that time. Even in that time there has been great progress, especially in the equipment they have, as there were no hoists and school buses had kids strapped in three together on benches when he first started. He described some of the stuff they used as being almost medieval!
Next week, the students will try interviewing each other and then we’ll be almost ready to start doing some proper recorded interviews that we can use to add to the content on this website.