A succession of speakers at last night's public meeting to oppose academies, held at Swinton British Legion, left people in no doubt that the ConDem Government's attempts to coherse schools to become acdemies was an ideologically driven policy that will privatise and harm education in Salford.
In Irlam and Cadishead, all six local Labour councillors have joined a community campaign to oppose proposals for the new Irlam and Cadishead College converting to academy status… "This would result in our new college no longer being accountable to the local community" they state in a leaflet that has gone out to residents.
At last night's well attended meeting, Roger Jones, Assistant Mayor, Irlam Councillor and one of the signatories of that letter, questioned what had gone wrong with the Labour Party in Salford. A Party that sees its own Mayor and grass roots members opposed to academies, while the Labour Council is in the process of setting up the Salford Academy Trust to run academies with the unaccountable Salford College in control.
"If we could get Labour Party members in this room they would agree with what is being said here, so what's gone wrong?" Councillor Jones asked "In Irlam and Cadishead, where we are mounting a campaign, the Mayor came to a Labour Party meeting and was supportive…The honest truth is that we've ended up with two policies."
Councillor Jones pointed the finger at the 52 Labour councillors who control Salford Council and argued that they must be influenced by grass roots members and community campaigns.
Earlier in the meeting he told how twenty years ago a community campaign in Irlam had stopped the local school from opting out of local authority control… "Twenty years later the argument is the same…We don't want our schools controlled by the government."
Every Salford councillor, MP and the Mayor was invited to attend last night's meeting but Councillor Jones was the only one who turned up. Steven North, of Salford City UNISON, called the lack of presence "disappointing", before explaining that John Merry, Assistant Mayor with responsibility for schools had failed to answer a letter questioning the secrecy surrounding Salford Council's involvement with setting up academies under the Salford Academy Trust.
He revealed that Buile Hill High had now been approached by Salford Council to become an academy… "We don't expect Salford Council to be approaching schools without holding ballots, telling them to become academies" he said, proposing that Salford sets up its own Anti Academies Alliance group to co-ordinate community, trade union and councillor opposition.
Reps from the National Union of Teachers told in detail how the academy process is being pushed by the greed of some head teachers – grabbing spurious extra resources for their schools at the expense of other schools, while grabbing a bigger salary for themselves.
If Buile Hill High became an academy and left the local authority, they explained, its current deficit of almost £1million would still have to be covered by Salford Council. Irlam and Cadishead College, meanwhile, would walk away from Salford Council with a brand new school, the land having been given by the local authority. The proposed academies would also take resources from Salford Council's general fund that supports services for SEN pupils amongst many others. In effect, budgets for Salford's other schools would be adversely affected.
The most poignant comments came from parents and staff at schools affected by proposed academy status.
UNISON member, Barry McKinnon, a former teacher of twenty years standing, told how all the schools he had been associated with have disappeared or are now becoming academies… "This is an attack on our schools, somebody has to be bothered about this" he urged "If we don't do something the future will look very, very different."
The meeting also heard how proposed academy, Albion High, is already changing terms for staff, taking subjects out of the curriculum and removing pastoral care. The fairness of the consultation process on Albion's future was also questioned, while it was suggested that Harrop Fold in Little Hulton is also looking at academy status…
"It's frightening" said one worker "You've got people working in schools whose hearts are really in it and now that heart is being ripped out. There's no voice for the kids and no voice for the parents."
Salford City UNISON officer, Ameen Hadi, added that the fight against academies wasn't just about schools converting but also about the class system…
"The Government wants to say to working class kids in Salford `You have no future': we're having a two tier educations system but everyone should have an equal chance in life" he explained "If a campaign against academies and a call for a ballot is good enough for Ian Stewart in Irlam and Cadishead, it should be good enough for him in Buile Hill, for Albion and everywhere else."
The final word of the meeting came from an Albion parent who challenged Salford's Mayor to stop the academisation of Salford's schools.
We're about to see the size of Ian Stewart's wallet, will Salford ever see the size of his balls?
The meeting voted* to set up the Salford Anti Academies Alliance with the following demands…
• The Council oppose all forced academies and immediately notify unions and Salford Anti Academies Alliance if any schools are under threat
• The Council should also oppose any converter academies such as Irlam & Cadishead college.
• The Council should stop approaching schools to be part of Salford Academy Trust. Any further academisation be put on hold.
• The Council should have a veto over any decisions taken by the Salford Academy Trust and Trade Unions be granted a full union recognition agreement , in line with the TUC Model Agreement.
• The Council to support a full community ballot over any school in Salford which wishes to become an Academy.
The meeting also agreed to organise a demonstration against Academies and lobby the Labour Group and full Council meeting in September.
* Councillor Roger Jones abstained from the vote
See previous Salford Star articles on academies for further information…
Assistant Mayor calls for Academies Ballot – and UNISON letter to John Merry – click here
John Merry Interview with the Salford Star - click here
Salford Council branded a disgrace and a joke over Academies Betrayal - click here
Main photo shows Councillor Roger Jones addressing the meeting