An open letter to Cllr Cunliffe, Executive Member for Children's Services

At the September meeting of Bolton TUC, the proposed free school for children on a greenfield site in Great Lever was unanimously opposed by delegates representing thousands of trade union members across the town.

There were a number of powerful educational reasons for this fierce opposition, even before the encroachment on Bolton’s limited green spaces was condemned outright.

The concerns arose from the relinquishing of control by the local authority to an organisation ­— Kings Leadership ­— with no information provided about it.

Who chose it, and why?

We are simply told it has strong values and is keen to get a greater presence in the Northwest!

Delegates were made aware that all councils are now forbidden from building any new school that isn’t a free school.

Thus the expertise built up by generations of education authorities is being destroyed, as specialist advisers become redundant, and local authorities’ ability to intervene is taken away.

For this reason delegates questioned why the proposed free school was described by a council spokesman as still belonging to the Bolton Family.

Does this mean the headteacher and governors will get the same support as our local authority schools?

Does this, therefore, mean they will operate the same pay scales?

Does this mean that headteachers will not create their own inflated pay scales for the few, and teachers and teacher assistants will be on the same pay as their local authority counterparts?

Does this mean all teachers will be fully qualified?

Bolton TUC calls upon the council to clarify the situation regarding free schools in Bolton.

They are no longer under their control; why should they be part of the Bolton Family?

As this latest attempt at privatising education is exposed as ineffective, expensive and built on shaky foundations beyond the council's control, we should be distancing ourselves from future problems built into the free school model ­— which have already caused one Bolton free school to close, leaving the taxpayer to pick up a bill in the region of £1 million. Funded by the taxpayer, but not accountable until they fail!

Bolton Council should be distancing itself from the free school project, and reminding everyone that the next Labour government will bring all schools back into local authority control.

Tom Hanley

Media Correspondent

Bolton TUC