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SALFORD ASSISTANT MAYOR CALLS FOR ACADEMIES BALLOT
 

Star date: 2nd July 2012

A Salford Star Exclusive

IRLAM COUNCILLOR AND ASSISTANT MAYOR, ROGER JONES, CALLS FOR ACADEMIES BALLOT AS JOHN MERRY ATTACKED BY UNISON OVER SECRECY…

"As a society we appear to have cast aside our principles" Assistant Mayor, Roger Jones.

High ranking Assistant Mayor, Roger Jones, who is also Labour councillor for Irlam, has written to the Head of Irlam and Cadishead College opposing any conversion to academy status, and seemingly going against current Salford Council policy by calling for a ballot of parents and staff on the issue.

Meanwhile, Assistant Mayor and former Salford Council Leader, John Merry, has received a stiff letter from public sector trade union, UNISON, criticising the secrecy and his handling of the move to make Salford schools become academies.

Full story here…


Many confused parents might well be asking what is going on in Salford's Children's Services…

Trade unions, including Salford City UNISON and the NUT, are criticising Salford's Labour Council for seemingly encouraging the city's schools to become academies under the Salford Academy Trust (an amalgam of Salford City College, the University of Salford and Salford Council).

Indeed, Salford City UNISON has just fired off a letter to former Council Leader John Merry - who's now Assistant Mayor with responsibility for schools - listing concerns about the academy process, following the publication of an interview with him in the Salford Star (see here)…

"In your interview you…admit that the Government has never stated it would force The Albion High School to become an Academy. Why then - if the intention of the local model is to assist schools who would be forced to become academies otherwise – is The Albion moving into the local academies arena – and without any proper consultation of staff and parents?" the letter asks "Further to this, why have a number of other Salford schools been approached to become part of this local model?"

Meanwhile, Roger Jones, fellow Assistant Mayor, for Transport and City Region, and councillor for Irlam, has written to the Head of the new Irlam and Cadishead College opposing any conversion to academy status…

"Thank you for your letter of 13 June asking me if I wanted to comment on the possible academy conversion of Irlam and Cadishead College" he writes "I am writing to urge yourself and the governing body to reject the recommendations of this coalition Governement to become an academy. Whether we have a Labour Government or a Conservative Government I have never believed that schools should be directly controlled and funded by Government. It is right that schools should be part of a local education authority (L.E.A. Salford) and that is where they should expect to receive advice, support and funding.

"20 years ago the governing body of Irlam and Cadishead Community High School decided to 'opt out of local authority control' and they conducted a ballot of all parents" he adds "It is fair to say they were very confident of the result, but they received a big shock when the parents rejected this proposal. During that time there was a great deal of concern within the community that we would end up with an independent school in Irlam and Cadishead and nobody wanted that. Plus the only reason for opting out was money. As a society we appear to have cast aside our principles, providing somebody give us more money…"

Councillor Jones, whose two children and eldest grandson were educated at the school, with another grandson due to start in September, ends the letter by urging the school "to conduct ballots of parents and staff on this issue so that they can get the true feelings of local people and staff. We want and must strive for a united local community."

This call for a ballot of parents and staff has been urged in all schools affected by academy conversion by trade unions, parents and campaigners against academies (see here and see here). Indeed, Salford City UNISON wrote to Salford Mayor, Ian Stewart, urging him to intervene.

So far, Salford Council has failed to respond but high ranking Assistant Mayor, Roger Jones, is the first Labour councillor to come out and publicly call for such a ballot in what can be perceived as a breaking of the ranks amongst the ruling Labour Group.

The letter from Salford City UNISON branch secretary, Steven North, to John Merry, which was copied to all Labour councillors, MPs and the Mayor, also criticises the secrecy surrounding the proposed conversion of Salford schools to academies, which Merry denied in the Salford Star interview but confirmed was being discussed last December…

"No information was shared at that time with the trade unions representing workers at those schools and from the conversations we have had with parents it does not appear that they were told either" states Steven North "I have copied this letter to our three Salford MPs and your Labour Group colleagues as I would be interested to know whether they were informed at that point.

"As it stands the lack of evidence and the lack of any effort to challenge the Government on the part of Salford Council only leaves us with the option of challenging this decision to convert these schools into Academies – albeit local academies" the letter adds "If a school is not about to be forced, we do not expect local authorities – let alone Labour authorities – to be running round and telling schools that they should become academies…"

Steven North concludes by requesting a response from John Merry within seven days…

Watch this space.


Full letter from Salford City UNISON to John Merry…

Dear Councillor Merry

CC: Labour Group Members, Salford MPs and City Mayor

I am writing to you with concern over your recent comments during an interview with Salford Star about proposals to convert a number of Salford schools into Academies, to be sponsored by Salford City College with junior roles for Salford City Council and Salford University.

You indicate in your interview that the local model involving the College and Salford University is intended to prevent a fragmentation of education in Salford, and that the local model exists to provide a home for schools that would otherwise be forced into Academy status by the Education Secretary, Michael Gove.

You state that in December 2011 you were informed by the Government that Dukesgate and Marlborough Road Schools would be forced into Academy status and had to fight to ensure they could be part of the local model that is now on the verge of being launched. Can I ask if you have any evidence of that or any minutes of meetings where this was discussed? The reason we ask is that no information was shared at that time with the trade unions representing workers at those schools and from the conversations we have had with parents it does not appear that they were told either. I have copied this letter to our three Salford MPs and your Labour Group colleagues as I would be interested to know whether they were informed at that point.

I met with you last year to say that UNISON would be more than willing to support the Council in any struggle against the Government where a Salford school was going to be forced into Academy status and the reception I received was a positive one. Why then, can I ask did you not come to us in December and ask for our support in challenging the Government? Had you done so we may have been able to successfully challenge the Government and there may have been no need for them to be considered as "local academies" under the sponsorship of the College.  If we had tried that approach and been unsuccessful, then as a trade union we would certainly be more understanding of the situation we are now in with those two schools. As it stands the lack of evidence and the lack of any effort to challenge the Government on the part of Salford Council only leaves us with the option of challenging this decision to convert these schools into Academies – albeit local academies.

In your interview you go on to admit that the Government has never stated it would force The Albion High School to become an Academy. Why then - if the intention of the local model is to assist schools who would be forced to become academies otherwise – is The Albion moving into the local academies arena – and without any proper consultation of staff and parents? Further to this, why have a number of other Salford schools been approached to become part of this local model?

Having explored it in further detail, we in UNISON are becoming increasingly concerned that schools that join the Salford Academy Trust will not be in any greatly different situation than schools who become academies by other means. The role of the Local Authority (a democratically accountable body) is minimal in both scenarios, which makes it very difficult in both cases to raise concerns about the schools from the point of view of the people of Salford.

You go on to insist that the local approach provides consistency, but so would a scenario where all schools are offered up to Oasis or United Learning Trust.
UNISON's position is very clear on Academies:

Where a school is informed by the Government that it will be forced to become an Academy we struggle to prevent that from happening and expect local authorities, especially Labour ones to help us to do so.

If that fight is unsuccessful then we may consider working with the Local Authority to look at a genuinely co-operative local model with the Local Authority still has a significant level of involvement.

If a school is not about to be forced, we do not expect local authorities – let alone Labour authorities – to be running round and telling schools that they should become academies.

Please could I request a response to this letter within seven days.
In the meantime, we will continue to work with our members, parents and the public to try and prevent Salford schools from becoming Academies – in whatever form.

Yours,

Steven North
Branch Secretary, Salford City UNISON

 

Full letter from Councillor Roger Jones to the Head of Irlam and Cadishead College…

Subject: Irlam and Cadishead College - Possible Academy Conversion.

Dear Headteacher,


Thank you for your letter of 13 June asking me if I wanted to comment on the possible academy conversion of Irlam and Cadishead College.

I am writing to urge yourself and the governing body to reject the recommendations of this coalition Governement to become an academy. Whether we have a Labour Government or a Conservative Government I have never believed that schools should be directly controlled & funded by Government. It is right that schools should be part of a local education authority (L.E.A. Salford) and that is where they should expect to receive advice, support and funding.

I think in recent years the head teacher, staff and governing body have done a very good job, but we still have a long way to go before we are rated as an excellent College.

For example: In both Maths & English the College over the last 3 years has been below the standards set by the Department for Education for 3 levels of progress from Key Stage 2-4. I am sure the College will renew its efforts in this area and in my view will rightly want guidance and support from the LEA. This is a big challenge which we should meet as a united community. I notice in your letter you don't mention the education of our children - only more money for the College!

We are all proud of our College and the new building which was commissioned by the LEA and built by a Labour Government under the programme ' building schools for the future. ' As you all know this programme has now been scrapped by the current Government leaving many schools & governing bodies with very old buildings to contend with.

20 years ago the governing body of Irlam and Cadishead Community High School decided to 'opt out of local authority control' and they conducted a ballot of all parents. It is fair to say they were very confident of the result, but they received a big shock when the parents rejected this proposal. During that time there was a great deal of concern within the community that we would end up with an independent school in Irlam and Cadishead and nobody wanted that. Plus the only reason for opting out was money. As a society we appear to have cast aside our principles, providing somebody give us more money.

Do I have a personal interest? Yes my two children and eldest grandson were educated at your college and my other grandson starts with you in September.

Finally I can only appeal to the governing body not to take this step - I would also like them to conduct ballots of parents and staff on this issue so that they can get the true feelings of local people and staff. We want & must strive for a united local community.


Yours sincerely,

Cllr Roger Jones

 


 

red irlam wrote
at 12:00:12 on 07 July 2012
Roger jones condems the academy system that Labour brought in - priceless!!! What will his next protest be about - congestion charging? The man is a clown.
 
margaret tilsley wrote
at 12:54:00 on 04 July 2012
Whats so bad about acadamies? the highest perorming comprehensive school in England Thomas Telford is an academy.
 
Just a Thought wrote
at 14:16:44 on 03 July 2012
Ask the question why the council are up in arms over this latest condem measure - Answer's quite simple. If all the schools are out of Local authority control, they won't have the authority to close the school. No arguments about surplus places , Just Straightforward Education...pure and simple. Of course, Council can Lament the land opportunities - but given their track record on this...Knock down Housing for a school, Knock down a school for Er..? Housing..!
 
Gareth L wrote
at 09:54:09 on 03 July 2012
Maybe Unison instead of writing stiff letters should withdraw support for their local labour party.
 
Mark Armstrong wrote
at 21:41:26 on 02 July 2012
Funny how the council are whining about loss of control of the local schools, however they managed to piss away untold amounts on PFI projects and now they have such poor budgetary control all they can do is bow to pressure from central government. Under BSF and PFI projects schools were built and now that the monthly bill arrives they have a choice between paying teachers or the bulding/contract owner! Guess who gets the first bite and guess who gets sacked. SO your lovely labour council signed up to agreements that extend many years into the future and once again have saddled Salford with unmanagable debt. They are really good at screwing things up yet still you vote them.
 
Louise Williams wrote
at 15:32:14 on 02 July 2012
Its about time something constructive was done, but there again, like everything else, if its talked about, then it goes ahead no matter what ..... enough said
 
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