This week the regional and national media pounced on a story that truly reflects the reckless and inappropriate attitude of some of the people who have access to public money.
According to yesterday’s The Sentinel, at a time when many people are having to forsake family holidays and trips abroad, Edensor Technology College in Stoke-On-Trent saw no problem with booking to send up to 80 of their teaching staff on a four-day trip to Marbella in Spain.
Apparently the purpose of the two-day conference (now cancelled due to inciting universal outrage) was to discuss the new curriculum and the matter of turning the college into an academy. The head-teacher of the college, Mr. Mercer, was obliged to deny that this trip was a staff jolly, making the utterly tired argument that it’s ‘cheaper’ to gather in Spain than in local conference spaces.
But just googling around for Stoke and Staffordshire-based conference suites that are capable of holding 80 delegates throws up pages of possibilities within a 20mile radius of the school. So are we honestly expected to believe that hiring a room for a couple of days and laying on a bus to take people a few miles down the road would cost more than four days at the four-star Andalucia Plaza Marbella Hotel – a hotel with Turkish baths, a casino and is close to golf courses and watersports according to the local press – plus flights and transfers?
It simply doesn’t add up. If conferencing at swish resorts in Europe was cheaper than hopping on a coach and meeting-up in Stoke, then it’s remarkable more of us don’t do it. Based on Mr. Mercer’s logic, it’s pretty astounding that there are any conference facilities in the UK at all – after all, wouldn’t we all prefer to go to a luxury resort for these things if we could?
Or perhaps it’s just that the teaching staff at this college in Stoke are cannier than us all…though judging from the merciless lampooning they’ve received from this catastrophic error of judgement, perhaps not…
The worst part of this story might be that, whilst staff from the college were staying in luxury over in sunnier climes, the pupils of Edensor Technology College were to complete 'internet-based tasks', in some vague gesture to education, no-doubt slung together in order to allay the guilt of their jetsetting teachers.
A huge public outcry has caused this trip to be pulled, which just proves how effective it can be to draw attention to these junkets, but with taxpayers’ money at risk, it’s worrying to think of just how many similar abuses might slip through the net month after month.