A News story by Rebecca Cullen 19 June 2023

Three E-ACT academies – West Walsall, Shenley, and Willenhall Academy, are among academies up and down the country who have been accepted onto a Department for Education funding programme, Opening School Facilities Funding (OSF), with the first year already complete. 

Sam Hesson, Regional Community Manager, is an avid supporter of offering facilities to the community and giving young people the opportunity to take part in accessible sporting sessions after school and during school holidays.  

He says ‘The Opening School Facilities Fund (OSF) has been a huge success for the three academies offering new opportunities for students and the wider community. It is fantastic to see the facilities back in use, with tennis and netball activities during the school day and community operating hours. As we look to build into year two, I give thanks to Active Black Country and Sport Birmingham for their support on these projects.’ 

Thanks to the OSF programme and local investments from Sport Birmingham and Active Black Country, the three academies can now upgrade and exhibit new sports equipment and facilities to the community. Having only been made aware of the grant in February 2023 and having two months until the end of the first year of the programme, the regional facilities team decided to spend the bids on equipment, resources and materials including new tennis nets and racquets, new painted court lines, badminton posts, maintenance equipment such as sweeping machines and a new online booking system for their community stakeholders. 

Leah Goode from Active Black Country says ‘It was great to see how the Opening School Facilities Funding (OSF) has supported Willenhall and West Walsall broadening their facilities on offer and being in a position to deliver tennis as a brand-new sport not just during after-school clubs but out into the community.  

Active Black Country wants to ensure that every young person and resident has the opportunity to be active and working with schools and partners to ensure this is a reality across local areas. Opening School Facilities is proving to be a key tool in providing all with equal opportunities to be active.  

The re-surfacing of tennis and netball lines along with purchasing of brand-new equipment works to ensure a bespoke offer from the facility. I look forward to working with the school as they move into year two part of the OSF Funding’. 

With these upgrades completed in the first year of the programme, all three academies are now preparing for year two of the programme where they plan to open the reformed facilities to the community and look for partnerships who can offer netball and tennis sessions to young people.  

Alongside this programme being a fantastic opportunity for community engagement, the PE departments at the academies can also take advantage of the upgraded facilities and equipment for lessons and after-school clubs.  

Alex Kaszuba, Head of Performance at E-ACT West Walsall Academy says ‘The new tennis court facilities have allowed us as a PE department to incorporate tennis into our curriculum to provide students with the experience and skills to play this sport when otherwise they would not have the chance to.’  

For year three of the programme, the academies are hoping to deliver more sessions and host holiday programmes.