Protest over heads’ £13,500 conference

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SHEFFIELD City Council’s education department has been criticised for spending almost £13,500 on a residential conference for primary school headteachers and officers days before the authority announced 690 job losses.

The cost of the two-day event, at Tankersley Manor Hotel, Barnsley, was paid out of school budgets, which have been protected by the Government. But school staff are facing reductions to their pensions.

Rod Padley, an organiser with trade union Unison, said: “The timing was totally insensitive. The cost includes a slap-up meal and disco, at the same time as the announcement of a huge number of redundancies that are going to ruin the lives of ordinary council workers. What is wrong with holding such an event in the Town Hall at a fraction of the cost? Why did the headteachers need to stay overnight when the venue was so close to Sheffield?”

More than 40 heads and a handful of council education officers attended the conference, which is held annually to give headteachers a chance to share best practice. It has previously been in Leeds and York but Tankersley Manor was chosen this year to save money and benefit a local business.

A council spokeswoman said: “Tankersley Manor was chosen after quotes were sought from other hotels. Tankersley Manor’s was the best, and included entertainment as part of the package, which was not requested directly. The event’s closeness to the council’s announcement was an unfortunate coincidence.”