Following the mess created by Salford Council's determination to close St George's RC High School in Little Hulton, new £165million plans were unveiled last week for all of Salford's high schools which have just been approved by the Council's Cabinet.
The Salford Star has seen the Council's own projections* of pupil numbers over the next six years and the plans don't appear to make any sense at all…
OASIS ACADEMY MEDIACITYUK – Why is it being built? Who is it being built for? And why is this private school getting loads of public money?
While other schools cannot get new buildings as part of the new Council education plans, the Government with help from Salford Council, is erecting a brand new school for a private academy that's estimated to be over 60% empty…
In September 2008, Oasis Community Learning, an offshoot of the Christian organisation Oasis UK, took over Hope High, a non-faith school run by Salford Council. It became a private academy - the Oasis Academy MediaCityUK - which is now outside of Salford Council's control.
As part of the Government's Building Schools for the Future programme the school, with links to the BBC, is being re-built and relocated to a site at Salford Quays.
Salford Council is covering all the costs in acquiring the site, and the Government is covering all the running costs for the school and funding a brand new state of the art school building (no-one will disclose the full costs but a good guess would be between £15-20million). Oasis, according to its `expression of interest', has merely agreed to supply "up to £1.5million" towards the capital costs.
The Half Empty School
Oasis Academy MediaCityUK is to be built to house 900 pupils age 11-16 (plus 250 post 16 students). However, the school in its current location only has 470 11-16 year olds this academic year. By the academic year 2014/15 the new school is projected to have only 312 pupils aged 11-16, and will be over 65% empty, according to Salford Council's own estimates**.
The publicly available report upon which the Council's Cabinet approved the plans yesterday didn't mention these figures at all but it did acknowledge that they are going to try to fill it with pupils who aren't from Salford. The report stated that "there are some issues to resolve in terms of admission criteria", and revealed that "approximately 300 of these places will be taken up by other authorities within the Greater Manchester area".
The Oasis Academy MediaCityUK is the only Salford school in this phase of development where the full costs are being met from the Government's Building Schools for the Future budget. Others are being pushed down the hyper expensive PFI route (Private Finance Initiative) or merely getting refurbishments.
Head teachers and parents of these schools might be left wondering why a private academy is getting a newly built school with BSF funding that's estimated to have over 60% surplus places when the Government considers a 6 to 8% surplus to be the "appropriate level". And also why a new school is being built that's not going to be filled with Salford pupils…
On hearing that the Oasis Academy plans had been confirmed yesterday Hazel Blears MP said "The new Academy, linked to the BBC, with fantastic facilities for learning will give Salford's young people the best chance of getting the jobs of the future. This is brilliant news for our City."
THE SWINTON MOORSIDE OVERCROWD…
Salford Council is pressing ahead with plans to merge Swinton High School and Moorside High School into one new build PFI school. The Council's own projections, seen by the Salford Star, show that the school will be well overcrowded – unless they can block parents from sending their kids to it…
Last year, Salford Council revealed plans for the merger of Swinton and Moorside high schools, admitting that "there is likely to be an estimated excess of some 300 + year 8-11 pupils". The new school was to be built for 1350 pupils when the actual number on the register when it opened would be over 1650. A public meeting with the Schools Adjudicator in December to discuss the mess was suddenly postponed, pending further plans.
This academic year, Salford Council's figures show that Moorside has 789 pupils age 11-16 and Swinton has 971 pupils age 11-16, making a total of 1760 pupils.
The Council's projections for Moorside for the academic year 2016/17 show 697 pupils (or 763 with `50% clawback'*) and for Swinton 874 pupils (or 935 with `50% clawback'). Add these up and by 2016 there's 1571 pupils (or 1698 with `50% clawback'*) … The plan passed by Cabinet yesterday is to close both schools and replace them with a new 1350 place school – leaving a potential overcrowd of 221 pupils (or 348 with `50% clawback').
To prevent such an overcrowd, there will be a one mile `ring fence' around the new school giving, in the words of the Council's report "those outside of the Swinton Core area…less opportunity to attend the new Swinton-Moorside School thus reducing parental choice".
The report also reveals that "on current pupil numbers, approximately 411 pupils across the two schools live outside the core area" and would therefore presumably be excluded from the new school (although the report does add that "this number is projected to reduce").
ALL THIS COST US £140,000!
All these plans and more have been compiled after outside consultants were paid £140,00 for advice – and we'll be getting a new school that's going to be over 60% empty and a new school that's going to be overcrowded unless pupils are barred from attending.
John Warmisham, Lead Member for Children's Services hailed the proposals as "a major milestone in our plan to transform Salford's schools…"
*An Explanation On Projection Tables…
The projections seen by the Salford Star show pupil numbers for every high school in the city, from the 2010/11 school year to the 2016/17 school year. One table shows "Projections With 50% Clawback", which are based on optimistic estimates that 50% of pupil numbers currently getting educated outside of the city will return to Salford schools. The second table shows "Projections With Nil Clawback", which estimates numbers with the current level of pupils going to schools outside of Salford.
The Report which accompanies the tables stresses that "they do not show what will happen, they show what might happen if current/recent trends are repeated"
** These Council figs are based on `nil clawback' (see above) but even with `50% clawback' the school will be 62.6% empty.
See the latest on St George's School here
Read Salford Council's Press Release on the new school plans here...