Protest over heads’ £13,500 conference

jollyram'Tankersley Manor Hotal, where Sheffield Council held a �135,000 residential conference for headteachers inc chief exec John Mothersole's wife, which finished the day before massive redundancies were announced
jollyram'Tankersley Manor Hotal, where Sheffield Council held a �135,000 residential conference for headteachers inc chief exec John Mothersole's wife, which finished the day before massive redundancies were announced
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SHEFFIELD Council’s education department spent almost £13,500 sending primary school headteachers and officers on a residential conference days before the authority announced 690 job losses.

The cost of the two-day event, at Tankersley Manor Hotel which included a dinner and disco, was paid for out of school budgets, which have been protected by the Government so are not being cut.

But school staff are facing reductions to their pensions which has led to ballots for strike action.

The general council budget for 2012/13, excluding education, is being cut by £50 million.

Rod Padley, an organiser with trade union Unison at Sheffield Council, said: “I think the decision to spend such an amount of money needs investigating. 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 plus a handful of council education officers attended the conference costing £140 a head.

The education department was billed for a meal, room hire, disco and cancellation fees for one headteacher who could not attend.

The council said the conference is held annually to give headteachers a chance to share best practice and help raise pupils’ attainment.

The event has been held in Leeds and York, but Tankersley Manor was chosen this year to save money and benefit a local business.

Dr Sonia Sharp, executive director of children’s services at Sheffield Council, said: “The conference is an annual event and a valuable part of primary heads’ development. The cost is covered by individual school budgets. Our role is to support the primary heads and to make sure they get best value for money.”

A Sheffield 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,” she added.