On November 20th Salford Council had a ballot to name the new primary school being built on the Glendinning Street site in Seedley. The publicity leaflet stated that "We will work with families and listen to you in order to provide your children with the best chances in life".
Unfortunately it looks like the Council has listened to no-one, and that some children won't get the "best chances in life" because the new school is too small to fit everyone in.
Salford Council is shutting three primary schools – Langworthy Road, Seedley and Tootal Drive - with a total current roll call of 534 pupils, and trying to squeeze all the kids into a school being built for 420 pupils. Outside Seedley Primary School yesterday parents were understandably angry…
"It's bollocks, isn't it?" said one parent succinctly as she rushed past to pick up her daughter; while Joanne Robinson picking up her nine year old son added that "it's ridiculous, stupid really…I've had letters about putting him in another school but I want him to go to his local school…the new one is handy for me but they're building it too small…it's ridiculous…"
Wes Fisher, collecting his son from the school's nursery, says his four year old will be heartbroken if he doesn't get into the new school…
"He's in nursery at the minute and there's 90 kids vying for 60 places at the new school. He really wants to go to there because his grandparents live just down the road and he keeps saying `That's my school, that's my school', so hopefully he's going to go there and he won't end up heartbroken. But to build it so small just seems like an oversight on their part really…"
This is no oversight. Salford Council knew that there would be a potential overcrowd situation with the new primary school and was warned a long time ago in its own reports, and by community organisations like the Seedley and Langworthy Trust (SALT), which held a stormy local forum meeting in September when parents' anger spilled over…
"Parents attending the community forum raised serious concerns which we all share over the lack of sufficient school places at the new primary school" says Lorna Leaston, SALT's general manager "This has been consistently raised over a number of years as part of the school review process – SALT actively challenged the predicted numbers at the time, given the area is a regeneration area with new families being encouraged to move here"
In 2006 the Council considered building two new schools to replace the three that are being shut, but the cost would have been an extra £5million and the idea was rejected. And a confidential Report to the Council's Cabinet in May 2008 warned of "potential overcrowd" in Langworthy, Weaste, Ordsall and Seedley primary schools, and 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".
So what is going on? Councillor John Warmisham, Lead Member for Children's Services, says that the new primary school building programme "is about providing children with the best possible teaching environments by reducing the amount of surplus places across all of our schools and using resources more efficiently…"
As the 2008 Report shows, there were no surplus places in primary schools in the Langworthy/Seedley area. Is this, then, about "using resources more efficiently"?
The same Report states that "projecting a local pupil population for this age group is notoriously difficult" and full of "uncertainties" but adds that "Nevertheless, the ability to generate additional local revenue by generating greater efficiencies through a well managed reduction in surplus places is a real possibility and a goal which we must strive for…"
According to another report from November 9th this year, relating to Lower Broughton primaries, for every three schools Salford shuts it saves around £90,000 per year. Plus income from the sale of the school land. Salford Council has already announced that it aims to close 10 schools with another possible 12 schools closing in the future. That's huge savings and huge sales income from school land…Is this the "goal we must strive for" rather than `Every Child Matters'?
"I'd like to reassure people that my decision is in the best interests of our young people and will enable us to provide a higher level of education with greater investment into our primary schools" says Councillor Warmisham "The new Glendinning Street school is one of a number of new primary schools being built across Salford as part of a multi-million pound programme to improve primary education in the city.
"Whilst the admission number for the new school will be lower than the combined admission numbers of the closing schools at Seedley, Langworthy Road and Tootal Drive Primary Schools" he adds "there will be sufficient places for all children across other schools in the area."
The Council is proposing to increase the capacity of Lark Hill Primary by 105 places to cope with the educational damage but this doesn't impress Pauline Curley, who's got two kids, age 4 and 7, at Seedley Primary…
"I wouldn't really want them to go there because I live on the doorstep of the new school, and want them to get a place where we live" she says "They told us they were building this big new super school that would house all three schools…but we then found out that it was a lot smaller than it was going to be…and then we found out that there was only going to be 25 places per year for each class – there's about 50-60 just in George's year, and that's just one school. They're shutting Tootal Drive and Langworthy Rd as well..
"I've got my name down for the school but if they don't get in I don't know what I'm going to do because all the other schools are full" she adds "The Council? I think they're a load of rubbish – they're shutting three schools down and opening one that's too small – what's going on there?"
• See previous schools articles here and here…
* Meanwhile, the `Bulldozing Schools for the Future' secondary school programme comes back in the limelight this week as the Schools Adjudicator returns to Salford to sort out the Moorside and Swinton merger. There's a public meeting on Thursday 3rd December 6pm Moorside School