Parents and pupils at St George's RC High School in Little Hulton were told last Friday that the school is to close in 2014, after a gradual amalgamation with the new St Ambrose Barlow.
In November 2009, after a bitter battle by the school and community to keep St George's open which brought thousands of people onto the streets of Little Hulton and Manchester, the Schools Adjudicator ruled that the school shouldn't close (see here).
Three months later in February 2010, however, Salford Council produced proposals for the future of its Building Schools for the Future scheme which included the option of "closures and amalgamation".
The Council even put out a press statement expressing that "closure of St George's would have provided pupils with the option to attend an enlarged, newly built St Ambrose Barlow, or one of the community schools in the area. It would have released extra funding from the sale of the then redundant site." (see here)…
…To which St George's Head Philip Harte responded "I broke up for half term and I thought I had gone back in time! Does Salford City Council never listen to the people? I cannot accept that St George's and other Catholic High schools are being held to ransom because of the appalling mistakes that were made by this council.
"St George's is being made the scapegoat when the reality of the situation is the intransience of this council and their totally inept planning that has created this situation" he added "I have said this many times and I will say it again YOU DONT CLOSE GOOD SCHOOLS councillors you build them up."
The then Leader of Salford Council, John Merry, was forced to put out a further statement…"There is no agenda here" he said "I want to make it absolutely clear that our proposal for St George's is for its refurbishment on the existing site. What we are asking Catholic schools and the diocese for is more options if they have any, simple as that." (see here)
Now, almost three years later John Merry, now Assistant Mayor for Children and Young People, is overseeing the proposed closure again in what Walkden South Councillor Ian Lindley is calling a "vindictive" move.
"This is sad and distressing news for the community in Walkden and Little Hulton" he says "The decision of the St George's Governors is extremely disappointing, but they have been left in a difficult, if not impossible, position.
"Having failed in their vindictive campaign to close the school through formal means, Salford's Labour Council have in terms of funding effectively starved the school into submission" he adds "I want to hear the views of parents, pupils and the wider community. There will be a consultation, and I will always support St George's for as long as the community wants it to remain open."
Responding, Assistant Mayor John Merry stated that "It's not our proposal and the school is funded under exactly the same formula as any other school..."
The Salford Star, which supported the JustKids4Georges campaign to keep the school open during the three year battle with the Council, has always maintained that the agenda behind the closure was the land upon which the school stands.
In 2008, the Council even had the St George's site down as available upon which to build 85 houses in its Strategic Housing Land Availability Assessment Report (as revealed in Salford Star issue 8).
Even now, as the school's Governors and the Catholic Diocese are backing the amalgamation, the closure plan stinks of money and finance – and not what is best for Salford kids' education…
* For a full background to the Battle for St George's see Salford Star issue 7 features - click here
Update 14th January
The letter from St George's RC High School Governors to parents is now available on the school website. In the letter the Governors make it clear that, despite Salford Council's `proposal for refurbishment' of the school, this was never forthcoming…
"There are not sufficient funds for a rebuild of St. George's or a satisfactory refurbishment. The Governors can see other pupils in Salford having the opportunity of being taught in first class, state of the art facilities, which are not being made available to our pupils.
"Our campaign was always to get the best possible educational opportunities for our pupils and we believe that we could deliver that at St. George's provided we were resourced satisfactorily.
"In the absence of the investment required to achieve this, the opportunity of being part of an outstanding school which will have the best facilities possible is an offer we reluctantly felt we could not refuse because the alternative was to put at risk the education of our pupils which is our priority."
See the full letter – click here
Update: 17th January
At the meeting of the full Council yesterday, Assistant Mayor John Merry accused Councillor Lindley of “political point scoring” over St George’s, argued that there “was no foundation or truth” to his reaction and challenged him to withdraw the comments about the Council being `vindictive’ and `starving the school of resources’.
Councillor Lindley said he stood by what he had said… “The Council tried to close the school but the Adjudicator said said the school must stay open” he responded “We wouldn’t be at this point if the Council would have given St George’s a fair allocation of BSF [Building Schools for the Future] cash…If this Council would have backed St George’s we would never have been in this position.”
Concluding the debate City Mayor Ian Stewart said that he “understands the feelings and the emotions…Can St George’s be reviewed? No.”