Deputy Rob Prow & I wrote this letter to the editor in response to an opinion piece by Nick Mann. We feel like Cassandra warning of the folly of letting in the Wooden Horse at Troy. They didn’t listen to her either. Guernsey’s education system is being unravelled in pursuit of ideology and it is being done with appalling haste and with little adherence to good governance.
1st December 2019
We have noted with interest Nick Mann’s Inside Politics commentary, which was published on 26th November 2019 entitled “Stubborn Education not for turning on schools overhaul”. His comments centred on this: “The real problem ….highlighted by the unions is with the inadequate designs of the new schools”.
Nick Mann referred to member surveys released by the NEU & NASUWT, where the serious dissatisfaction of the teachers about the current state of affairs was revealed. He also suggested that La Mare de Carteret site easily outranked that of Les Beaucamps site.
Mr Mann failed to mention in his piece that at the time of the States debate in September 2019, we led a call to delay to States approval of the proposals, in order to give the Committee for Education Sport & Culture (“the Committee”) the time that it needed to do the necessary research and engagement that a project of such magnitude requires.
The tool to achieve such delay and which also requested the Committee for further action, was a Sursis Motive which we laid in late August.
This sought to require the Committee to present the detailed evidence, which would have included the results of any consultation with the professional teaching bodies via stakeholder engagement sessions to the States for proper scrutiny in the form of an Outline Project Business Case.
We believed then and still do now, that this information and dialogue was vital in order for the States to properly decide on a huge spending allocation of £157 million. Deputies would not be fully equipped to vote on proposals without knowing further key details or indeed the views of professionals about the plans.
In the lead up to the debate we commented that the work that the Committee presented was opaque and in fact there still persists a lack of evidence to this day to support that their preferred model is the only way which can achieve the benefits they seek to achieve.
There is a lack of financial information behind the annual costs and where the savings are made, in addition to a disturbing lack of detail about key logistical information regarding transport.
We sought to persuade the States to assure itself that the preferred option set out by the Committee, represented the best value for public money. We asked for proof beyond reasonable doubt to be presented by the Committee. It has never been forthcoming.
So now the teaching profession have provided the confirmation to our suspicions that this project has been rushed with undue hast and has not only led to scant detail being presented, but that crucially left no time for a proper consultation process. This was an accusation robustly refuted at the time by the Committee, but in light of the recent survey results was clearly a false claim by them.
The Sursis gained support from the NASUWT, from educationalists and members of the public. The Scrutiny Committee supported the need for more information, in their letter of comment dated 30th August 2019, giving the Assembly a clear view of what was lacking, what work still needs to be done and what expectation they had of the detail required by Deputies to vote on the matter. During debate the Sursis was supported by thirteen Deputies and the vote in favour of the 2 schools was far from unanimous, with comments confirming the concern from many about the plans.
It is clear now that the vast majority of professionals share our serious concerns about the viability of developing St Sampsons and Les Beaucamps High and that the provision of the facilities of those two 1,400 pupil schools and 2 separate 6th form centres will be detrimental to the education of our school children.
With a mere 5% of teachers supporting the plans and 82% opposed, along with 88% of teachers thinking that States did not have the right approach to improving education surely something has to give?
Will the Unions be granted their request not only to be heard but to have aspects of the plans changed at this late stage?
Can the Committee really continue with the submission of the plans to and to go to tender knowing that the professional teaching body by majority are overwhelmingly opposed to these plans?
We have encouraged professionals to make their voices heard over the years and many of the debates around education since 2016 have seen senior politicians notably those at the helm of this transformation in terms of financing and policy Deputies St Pier & Fallaize, staunchly advocating that we listen to the professionals.
Why then we ask, have they suddenly stopped listening?
Deputies Andrea Dudley-Owen & Rob Prow