Aldersly High School, Wolverhampton, March 2012
Aldersly High School, Wolverhampton, March 2012

Education and schools are changing. Dirt checks out an amazing project at Alsdersley High School Wolverhampton - Rollings Raceway...

From Dirt Issue 124 - June 2012

Words by Richard Cunynghame. Photos by Grant Robinson.

In November 1967, the Los Angeles based band Love released their album Forever Changes. At a time when the Hollywood dream industry was dancing around the San Francisco psychedelic maypole, it was a stark cynical look at the world as it came to the end of the Summer of Love. It showed the cracks that were appearing in the hippy dream and its title came from an equally tragic scenario; the singer/songwriter Arthur Lee heard about a friend–of–a–friend who had dumped his girlfriend. She exclaimed, "You said you would love me forever", and he replied, "Well, forever changes." Well, luckily for us, forever can change for the positive as well.

School hey! The word fills me with dread, I hated mine and the idea that it is enforced onto unsuspecting kids has often seemed to me like giving mandatory prison sentences to everyone just for being born. Its benefits cannot be denied, we arrive into this world as a bundle of gurgling mess and to be able to take a healthy and enjoyable route through this life there is a lot to be learned. The Victorians certainly thought this learning process should be hard work and not to be enjoyed. This world has now changed; we’re in an era where people get offered flexi–time and our enjoyment of life is seen as paramount and equally conducive towards not only our productivity and contribution to society but also that each of us is entitled to actually take pleasure from our existence. Less of the 'ruler across the knuckles' with more emphasis on catering towards what kids want and need to turn out well.>>

Click through to keep reading...

[part title="Aldersley High School, Rollings Raceway - Page 2..."]

Aldersly High School, Wolverhampton, March 2012
Aldersly High School, Wolverhampton, March 2012

It is with great joy that we can witness the revelation that sees a BMX track being built in the grounds of a school. You have indeed read that correctly. A school has taken this forthright decision and commitment. For years schools have been involved with bikes through Cycle Proficiency, more recently known as Bikeability; at Aldersley High School in Wolverhampton things were taken a step further with cycle maintenance courses and it was from here that plans grew. The vision of Pete Rollings, who was involved with the running of these courses, flowed over into his ambition to get proper facilities for riding built on the school grounds. His enthusiasm was key in aligning all the relevant parties. As can be easily imagined, it’s no easy task to secure a site and funding along with the blessings of all those involved and affected. The going was made a lot easier by Aldersely being such a forward–looking school. The last three years have seen exponential improvement as a result of the school embracing the concept of keeping kids active and involved. The idea of staying behind at school for another class would seem undesirable to many but here they have introduced an optional seventh period that takes place at the end of the day; 70% of pupils take part in this session where various sports and other activities are offered. The effect of ‘Period Seven’, as it is known, is nothing short of amazing, the pass rate in P.E. was about 10% three years ago, it is now 100%. These benefits aren’t just felt in the immediate area of P.E. Pass rates across all subjects have gone up since the introduction of these other activities; 30% three years ago, has now doubled to 60% and the positive attitude of the kids has been a major factor in this. It seems obvious that if the kids are better provided for then they will flourish, but actually putting in place what is required is no easy task and the school really should be applauded for their efforts and achievements.

ALL EIGHT GATES

Aldersly High School, Wolverhampton, March 2012
Aldersly High School, Wolverhampton, March 2012

[part title="ALDERSLEY HIGH SCHOOL, ROLLINGS RACEWAY - Page 3..."]

Aldersly High School, Wolverhampton, March 2012
Aldersly High School, Wolverhampton, March 2012

To check it out we visited with four riders that have taken riding a long way from the school gates, all racing world–level events and one with a World Championship title to his name; Scott and Davi Roberts, Nate Parsons and Thomas Slavik. To give us a full gate pupils Lewis Pile, Adam Rogers, Jason Bargota and Niall McCreesh were given time out of their other classes to come and show us round, I’m sure skipping a maths class to ride ya bike is enough to cultivate enthusiasm but you could tell these boys really do love the facilities they’re blessed with and a passion for riding is growing fast in them. This is a great opportunity and one that Deputy Head Andy is aware of, “Having the lads come round today, show’s the pupils what they can aim for. They have come such a long way in a few weeks but this shows them where they’re going in the future."

For a sport like riding bikes on dirt to be embraced so wholeheartedly by a school and to be seen as a viable thing to work at and have goals in for the future is so encouraging. And the work does not stop there, the Wolverhampton BMX Club has been formed to be based at the track and provide the infrastructure needed to run events and coaching. Sessions are already held on Mondays and Fridays to coach the kids with more teachers being given the required training. The school are also looking at ways incorporate it into the curriculum so that the use of the track will no longer be restricted to after–class hours. For a long time, schools near ski resorts (in Europe) have taken advantage of the local facilities and it is great to see a similar attitude being incorporated here.

TARMAC TURNED SCHOOLYARD

From the initial passion of one man, Pete Rollings, this idea to provide kids with greater experiences and an opportunity to ride bikes on the school grounds has come a long way. Unfortunately Pete was not able to see the fruition of his idea, sadly passing away just one month before the track was opened. But what a great honour it is that his name will live on as testament to his efforts and vision, the completed track was named after him, ‘Rollings Raceway’.

Aldersly High School, Wolverhampton, March 2012
Aldersly High School, Wolverhampton, March 2012

If you’re feeling jealous of this facility, don’t worry, the school are far from protective, “The track is here for the community, the school have a certain amount of time and then we say right, we’ll staff it and the community can come in."

These pupils are living the dreams many of us had as children and it’s great that nowadays people understand that times can change and the look into forever can be positive and filled with fun times. I remembered the chime of the school bells ringing as an opportunity to break free; this here really is not that gloom of school, instead it is a positive place brimming with good feelings and happiness. Kids that get to enjoy their school life whilst making sure it’s productive. Learning that gets the essential core of education across with a wider view of what these future–adults might need in their lives. The enjoyment the kids get from riding here is obvious, but it is the reverberations of these tracks and the attitude of this school that is far more vast. It introduces an array of what’s possible and that what is possible in this complex and elaborate world can be enjoyed.

INFO

The track is open to the public Monday – Friday, 5–8pm, and 10am–1pm on Saturdays, 1–4pm on Sundays.

Check: facebook.com/RollingsRaceway for directions, more info on the track including photos and events along with the latest opening times as these may change, especially during winter, and www.wolverhamptonbmxclub.co.uk.