No-one was lost for words tonight as parents, staff and trade union reps branded Salford Council `a joke' and `a disgrace' for its `betrayal' of Salford children, as it rushes to privatise its schools.
Marlborough Road Primary School and Albion High School in East Salford are in line to become academies in September, along with Dukesgate Primary in Little Hulton (see here), under the umbrella of Salford Academy Trust – run by Salford City College with Salford University and Salford City Council minor partners.
But the speed of the change, the lack of proper debate, the secrecy, the haste, the effect on vulnerable pupils, the reduction of money to help other Salford schools and the `jobs for the boys' approach was slammed by speakers and parents.
The former Head of Albion High, Steve Aveyard, came in for fierce criticism after he announced that he was leaving the school to become Chief Executive of the new Salford Academy Trust for a salary of over £100,000.
"People need to ask whether this post was ever advertised, who appointed him and who set his wage" said Keith Bradley representing the Anti Academies Alliance.
An Albion parent branded Aveyard's appointment "an absolute joke"…
"They're saying they want to make Albion an academy because it's failing, which it isn't; but if it is failing then whose fault is that?" she asked "Surely the Head is responsible for its failing and now he's the Chief Exec of Salford Academy Trust!"
Lesley Auger, from the National Union of Teachers (NUT) said it was about "creating a layer of jobs for the boys" as extra money would have to be found from school budgets, not only for Aveyard's Chief Exec salary but also for a new principal of Albion, with a package `up to £100,000'… "money that should be spent on the children of Salford. Having done a lot of work through the hard times at Albion, supporting the school, I feel betrayed."
Other speakers told how the move to academies will drain money from Salford's education budget, with Salford Academy Trust (led by Salford College) possibly procuring its own services and forcing redundancies in the Council's central support services which would affect other schools and vulnerable pupils in the city.
Future admissions and exclusions policy, and support for SEN pupils are all questions that the unions say haven't been answered. Meanwhile, some of the lowest paid support staff are concerned that new `flexible working' will see them "moved around like chess pieces" within the Trust – from, say Marlborough Road in Broughton to Dukesgate in Little Hulton, not merely adding hours and expense to their working day but breaking consistency with the vulnerable pupils they work with.
The big question on everyone's lips was why the rapid move to academy status is happening…
"Why is Salford Council falling over like a row of dominoes trying to get rid of its schools?" asked Judith Elderkin of the NUT "Why has this been done on the QT and almost signed, sealed and delivered by the time the consultation started?"
"Why the secrecy?" asked Lesley Auger of the NUT "Why didn't Salford councillors and Cabinet members know about this?"
"Parents should be asking `Why are you forcing my school to be private? Why is Salford doing this? Where is the accountability? Where is the community say in these matters? Why can't I have a vote?'" explained Keith Bradley of the Anti-Academies Alliance, adding that the behind closed doors decision making was "disgraceful"...
Parents also slated the so-called official `consultation' on the future of Albion High School which ends this Friday, June 22nd (click here to fill it in online) but people at the meeting joined Dukesgate staff and parents in voting overwhelmingly for a call for a public meeting and a public vote on all the schools' future, and the launch of a petition.
Salford City UNISON's Ameen Hadi branded John Merry's recent statement that there is no alternative to the move to academy status as "a tactic…when people act the Council is forced to respond."
He gave the example of the successful campaign against Day Centre closures and urged Salford people to oppose the rush for academies… "We have a responsibility to make sure that we don't let go of our public services" he said.
"Somebody's benefitting from academies, and it's not the kids" concluded Keith Bradley "It's a small group of people, usually those at the top…"
Update and interview with John Merry, Assistant Mayor for Young People - click here
For full details of the Salford Council's academy attacks, secrecy and schools privatisation see previous Salford Star articles…
The Wholesale Privatisation of Salford Schools – click here
Albion To Become An Academy – click here
The Break Up Of Salford Education – click here
Salford Council Challenged On Academies – click here
For further details on the Anti Academies Alliance see www.antiacademies.org.uk
Main photo: Keith Bradley of Anti Academies Alliance
Photos by Steven Speed