Following the schools adjudicator's decision to save St George's RC High School in Little Hulton, the Council has today come up with a range of further options for the city's schools – one which pits the city's Catholic schools against each other and even, strangely, suggests that St George's may still close.
While giving three Catholic schools – St Ambrose Barlow, All Hallows and St George's – the option of refurbishment on their current site, the proposals suggest that if there is to be a new school built, one has to close or amalgamate with another to make it "viable".
Option 1 for St George's, for instance, states that "depending on the outcome of the proposal for St Ambrose Barlow school, St George's, in partnership with the diocese and other schools, be invited to submit alternative proposals, including the possibility of closures and amalgamation, which would make a new building a viable possibility"…
And the Council, in its press statement, firmly lays the blame on St George's - rather than the Children's Services Department which tried to push the flawed, unpopular plans through in the first place… "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."
Presumably, to pay for the new options, All Hallows is now not going to be re-built on what will be the former Hope High site, and that land will be flogged off to fund the changes.
The proposals also mean more expensive PFI (Private Finance Initiative) schools which will have taxpayers picking up the bill for up to the next 40 years. The new build school that will replace the closed Swinton and Moorside High Schools will be PFI, as will the re-built St Patrick's RC High. Wentworth High gets a partial new build plus refurbishment, instead of the new build of the original plans.
"We have still not completed our BSF journey" says Salford Council Leader John Merry "but I am confident that we are now back on the right road and heading in the right direction…"
…as opposed to the wrong road and the wrong direction last time proposals were put forward…
See the full Council proposals here…
* 19th February 2010
Just received this comment from St George's Head Teacher, Philip Harte..
"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. I have said this many times and I will say it again YOU DONT CLOSE GOOD SCHOOLS councillors you build them up."