Sparks fly at MediaCity academy as cuts take hold
It is one of the most unusual and attention-grabbing names to have emerged for an academy since the programme of conversions began: Oasis Academy MediaCityUK, Salford.
As such, it can only be all the more embarrassing that the school has been subject to a number of disruptions in the last month as public-sector cuts begin to bite.
Earlier this month, local papers were littered with stories that the school - which will next year move to the site of Salford's media campus, new home to large swathes of the BBC - had seen pupils run riot and disrupt lessons after news broke that 14 staff members were facing redundancy. Reports of fireworks and fire alarms being set off were widespread.
Then, on Tuesday, the school - known as Hope High before it became an academy - closed for a day when members of the NUT and NASUWT teaching unions walked out over the way the redundancies were being handled. Coming, as it did, just over a week before national strikes will also shut the school, the disruption was even more pronounced.
So far, two teachers have agreed to take voluntary redundancy, but the unions have said that another eight teachers have not been told the reason they were chosen for redundancy. Four support staff are also affected.
Unions insist they were left with no option but to strike. "We are asking for the process to be done properly with consultation and transparency. We don't know how they selected the people who have been made redundant," said Avis Gilmore, North West regional secretary for the NUT, warning that more strikes were on the cards.
"As soon as we became aware of the situation, we asked for a meeting to resolve issues without the need to go forward with the strike, but the responses were that they (the management) would not contemplate revisiting the procedure," she added. "They have not moved the slightest inch. Members have said that they are willing to take further strike action to bring (the management) back to the table."
A statement from the NASUWT echoed this. "Staff at the academy are facing an uncertain future because of these proposals and educational standards could be compromised," it said.
"Students are going to lose their teachers part way through the academic year. The decision to make redundancies came as a shock and surprise to all in September."
Oasis Community Learning, which runs the school as part of a chain of academies, has said that its work is inspired by the life, message and example of Jesus Christ.
The current principal of Oasis Academy MediaCityUK, Patrick Ottley-O'Connor, joined the school in September 2010, telling pupils in a newsletter that his ambition was to make it the best in the country. Indeed, in November 2010 Ofsted described the newly appointed principal as "incisive, imaginative and highly effective".
The school is unrepentant. "The academy regretfully confirms that, due to a combination of inherent overstaffing and Government cuts, it has been necessary to make redundancies ahead of our move to our MediaCityUK campus in September 2012. A number of staff have been affected and some staff have taken the opportunity of voluntary redundancy," it said.
"The academy is presently in negotiations with the teaching unions over the redundancy process. We are disappointed the issue could not be resolved without strike action and disruption to teaching. However, the academy remains 100 per cent committed and focused on its targets to continue to improve educational standards and exam results."
The percentage of pupils gaining five A*-C GCSEs including English and maths
2007 - Hope High School, 706 pupils on roll: 23%
2008 - Hope High School, 595 pupils on roll: 33%
2009 - Oasis Academy MediaCityUK, 549 pupils on roll: 31%
2010 - Oasis Academy MediaCityUK, 502 pupils on roll: 41%.