Rumours are currently sweeping Charlestown and Lower Kersal that Charlestown Primary School, closed last year along with North Grecian Street School to form the new River View School in Lower Broughton, is to re-open.
Charlestown Primary was due to be bulldozed to make a playing field for Albion High but has so far remained almost intact, and the lights were on in the building last week.
A Salford Council report notes that discussions have already taken place about "two new two form entry schools", to cope with a growing crisis in the city surrounding primary pupil places, which has mushroomed from a shortage of around 500 places last year to a further 200 during 2012.
The Council report argues that there is an "unprecedented demand for places" but this crisis was predicted as the Council closed, bulldozed and merged primary schools including Langworthy, Tootal Drive, Seedley, Charlestown and North Grecian Street over the last few years. Tootal Drive is being bulldozed this week.
In 2008, Salford Council's own pupil predictions, via its Primary Strategy For Change, forecast an `overcrowd' in Langworthy, Seedley, Ordsall and Weaste for the year 2013 – a shortage of 55 places – yet it went ahead with closing Langworthy Road, Tootal Drive and Seedley primary schools and replacing them with one school, Willow Tree, which was always too small. The same `overcrowd' of 55 places was also forecast for Worsley and Boothstown.
Indeed the Council's own strategy reported that "latest figures for the national
projected primary population up to the year 2023 indicate a falling population
through to 2010 but then an increase through to 2023", that "projecting a
local pupil population for this age group is notoriously difficult" and stated that
there were "uncertainties into the planning process".
However, the Council ploughed on with its primary school closure and
bulldozing programme to reduce `surplus places', and to build new shiny
Much of the work on the Strategy was led by Urban Vision, Salford Council's
joint venture company with huge conglomerate Capita Symonds. Consultants
were brought in from both Capita Symonds and Capita Children's Services to
work on the new plans for primary education in Salford.
Urban Vision, of which Capita is a partner, was subsequently contracted as part of the design teams for the multi-million pounds worth of new primary schools that were then built - River View in Lower Broughton and Willow Tree in Seedley.
As a result of the culling of primary school places in Salford, there has been a shortfall of 700 places in Reception and Year 1. The Council's financial education contingency was spent in 2011 to meet a 500 place shortfall, and the latest Council report states that "It is predicted that this position will be repeated in 2012 and with a possible further 200 place increase within the primary school population".
The report adds that "an amount equivalent to the contingency total of £850k will be made available in September 2012 by Schools Forum from Dedicated Schools Grant Funding for additional teachers and classes".
Altogether the crisis in primary education will have cost Salford Council well over £1million, plus discussions have already taken place on the future provision of "two new two form entry schools".
Salford Council hasn't responded to Salford Star's question as to whether Charlestown Primary is to re-open or not. But rumours are sweeping East Salford.
If Charlestown does re-open, it will be a total embarrassment to Salford Council which went ahead with the closure despite warnings of the consequences.
Before the closure, the National Schools Adjudicator noted that "the Council's roll projections for the seven schools within one mile of the proposed new school show…a possible shortfall by 2013".
Indeed, the Council's roll projections showed "a potential shortfall of 44 places across the six schools in the area by 2013/14". The Adjudicator added "I note that, on the current roll projections, this proposal provides little flexibility to enable increased parental choice and/or unforeseen increased demand in the medium term".
However, incredibly, he concluded that "the need to remove places, or indeed to create new ones, is not the key consideration in this case and this should not be a critical factor in my determination". You what?
The Adjudicator also noted a letter received by Salford Council on 20th December 2007, signed by the head teachers of Charlestown and North Grecian Schools, pointing out "that they do not believe the changing demographics of the area have been fully taken into account".
Yet the writing was on the blackboard all the way through the process of closing and bulldozing the city's primary schools. Salford Council's own Joint Strategic Needs Assessment 2008-13 stated in no uncertain terms "the high frequency of women of childbearing age may necessitate a specific prospective planning exercise to determine capacity requirements, for example, in education."
Council education officers are trying to make out that the current crisis in primary places is due to "unprecedented demand for places" or, as former Lead Member of Children's Services, Councillor John Warmisham, remarked at a Council Meeting in 2009 "something in the water". But the warnings began five years ago before the bulldozing, merging and closures began.
See previous Salford Star features on primary schools…
The Salford Star Told You So – click here
Salford Schoolkid Predictions - from 2009 - click here
Seedley Primary Meets The Bulldozers - click here
Salford Primary Future - click here