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Posted on 9 December 2011 at 12:20 GMT

Picket outside Oasis Academy, Salford, photo by Paul Gerrard

Picket outside Oasis Academy, Salford, photo by Paul Gerrard   (Click to enlarge)

Job cull at the Oasis Academy, Salford

The only thing Santa is bringing the staff at the Oasis Academy, Salford, is P45s. Thirteen staff are to lose their jobs this Christmas, nine teachers and four support staff.

Oasis Community Learning is one of a growing number of 'chains' of academies, with schools in Enfield, Croydon, Bristol, Southampton, Grimsby, Oldham and elsewhere.

It's an avowedly Christian foundation, 'motivated and inspired by the life, message and example of Christ' (website). So they've sacked thirteen staff, at Christmas.

Four years ago Salford's Hope High School was under threat. The then Director of Children's Services, Jill Baker, herself an evangelical Christian, offered academy status under Oasis as the only alternative to closure.

Staff reluctantly accepted assurances of 'no job losses'. They were TUPE'ed over and at first all seemed well.

The former head and management team were retained, there was investment in the school and the environment improved.

Planning began for a new building at Salford Quays near the BBC's MediaCity which would be known as Oasis Academy MediaCity UK, though eyebrows were raised when it was revealed that the new school would have a capacity of 1,200 pupils, since there were just over 400 currently on roll.

Where would the other pupils come from? Only from other state schools in other local authorities, leading to further instability.

A year ago a new head was appointed by Oasis and about six weeks ago he announced thirteen staff redundancies, to take place mid-year, irrespective of the impact on pupils taking GCSEs.

Some individual pupils will lose four or five of their subject teachers in their last year of schooling.

As one pupil commented: 'They always say that years 10 and 11 are dead important years for your GCSEs but the teachers that they're getting rid of are the ones that teach them and they're not being replaced'.

When pupils heard, they organised a walkout from the school and set off fire alarms all day - if Oasis didn't care about their education then why would they?

A process of 'consultation' which would normally take three months has been concertina'ed into five weeks, and the unions have been sidelined.

National Union of Teachers (NUT) members balloted overwhelmingly for action. NUT and NAS/UWT have authorised strike days with full pay in the face of Oasis' intransigeance.

The school was closed as part of the pensions' dispute on 30th November and there have been two strike days over redundancies in each of the first two weeks of December.

As one NUT member commented, 'they say they're a Christian foundation but basically, it's a business'.

Oasis has more secondary schools (14) than some local authorities and it might be thought that they could support a school in difficulties, or offer alternative employment (there's an Oasis school the other side of Manchester, in Oldham) - but no, each school is 'financially independent'.

The government tries to entice more schools down the academy road, but for all the glossy prospectuses and the flashy websites in this crazy Con-Dem world, each school is just another 'cost centre'.

Paul Gerrard, Salford Socialist Party

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