CONCERNS over school funding, a "staffing crisis" and "fragmenting" of the education system were high on the agenda at a public meeting staged by Oldham teaching unions.

Speakers at the Oldham National Education Union gathering in the council chamber voiced issues ranging from inadequate funding to loss of local accountability with the spread of academisation.

Nigel Yeo, joint secretary of Oldham NEU, said the meeting discussed how "more and more" schools are being "threatened, enticed, cajoled, bribed or forced into becoming academies", diminishing the influence of the local authority and local communities.

He said: "Although many academies and Multi-Academy Trusts do take heed of local needs and aspirations, they are in the end private businesses and are under no obligation to do so, and will continue to do so only as long as it makes business sense.

"Oldham NEU has always taken the stance that academies should revert to local control and should be accountable to the local communities they serve. This coincides with the growing national picture. Then we will not be seeing schools like the UTC school in Oldham which cost nine million pounds to be built and remained open for three years, or the Collective Spirit or the Bright Tribe Academy Trust."

The NEU highlighted their on-going campaign against a lack of adequate school funding which they say sees many schools across the country, and in particular in Oldham, facing cuts in real terms as funding continues to lag behind demand.

This, they say, mounts pressure on schools and staff with claims high workload is forcing teachers to leave the profession "in droves".

"To make matters worse, the Government has failed to reach its teacher recruitment target for the sixth year running," said Nigel.

"Fewer and fewer graduates are entering the profession and nearly half of those that do leave within a few years.

"There is a definite crisis in staffing our education service and unless the Government adopts a new approach with sufficient investment it is only going to get worse."

The meeting welcomed a number of high profile guest speakers including writer and campaigner Melissa Benn - the daughter of Tony Benn - Kevin Courtney, the Joint General Secretary of the National Education Union; Thelma Walker MP, a former headteacher who now sits on the Education Select Committee in the Houses of Parliament and Councillor Paul Jacques, Oldham's Cabinet officer for Education The meeting was chaired by Oldham West and Royton MP Jim McMahon.

"The public meeting was a very enjoyable and instructive experience and the audience went away impressed and inspired to make the education system in Oldham and in the country fit for the 21st century," said Nigel.