Motion of No Confidence in Committee

dudleyowenDeputy's Blog 2017

I sit on 2 Committees in the States, one is for Economic Development and the other Education Sport & Culture.

Following the recent debate in November 2016 about whether or not to retain selection at 11  a vote of no confidence was threatened by a group of 7 Deputies in an attempt to oust the current Committee for Education Sport & Culture if members did not resign.

After one resignation the remainder of our Committee stood firm and the motion was laid. On 11th January 2017 the States debated the motion and voted by majority.

This is my speech from that day – we address the chamber of Deputies through the Bailiff, hence my reference to “Sir”:

“For the sake of Guernsey’s future, we must seek an education system which provides pupils with choice and does not compromise standards, which is based on sound educational research into teaching, learning and effective assessment procedures. The changes to our education system must consider the concerns and interests of all stakeholders because the future of Guernsey will be shaped by the design and quality of its education system.

“Our Bailiwick’s children must be offered the best we can provide in terms of choice of school, curriculum design and quality of teaching and learning. We need to consider how to enable all our young people to develop their gifts in order to make positive contributions to society. Considering the diverse talents of pupils in an ever faster-moving and competitive world, we must invest in a first rate system which seeks to stretch all children to achieve their potential and take their place confidently in a 21st Century society.”

Now Sir, I know that the members of the Committee for Education Sport & Culture agree with these sentiments and are committed to the delivery of an education system which achieves what has been described so eloquently here, by a locally resident educationalist of high reputation.

I cannot imagine that anyone in this Chamber would disagree with these perceptive and clear statements.  So I ask members what really is the motive and who really are the players behind this vote of no confidence in our committee of which I am a most conscientious member?

I ask why the group of 7 and their supporters would want to unseat the Committee who share their desire to deliver the best education system we can in accordance with the agreed resolution?

I ask: is it right that the supporting letter to the motion which Deputy Yerby has laid, makes unfounded allegations about my views? The totality of the arguments in my speech of 30th November have been definitively ignored in her pursuit to discredit myself and the committee.

I ask: Is it right that not one of the signatories has sought to discuss any of their concerns or issues with the committee, or with individual members before hastily bringing this damaging Vote of No Confidence?

I consider that political manoeuvrings lie behind the Vote of No Confidence brought at this very early stage in the States.  It has destroyed much of the trust which existed in this Chamber, destroyed the positive and conducive relationships that were being built, destroyed the hope of a collegiate style of consensus government which the Guernsey people have rightly been demanding, for many years. The time spent out of the spotlight creating, investing and nurturing relationships between members – these are not magicked out of thin air, these productive relationships have been dangerously risked by this motion.

I stood for election as a People’s Deputy, because I have a strong sense of community and civic duty. I believe that I was successful in being elected as people see that I have a pragmatic, moderate and measured approach.  I am not hindered by blind principles or the desire for control or political power. I do not have a hidden agenda.

I believe that our children need certainty and achievable timetables for change within a tested educational system. We have been asked to present a mixed-ability model for the States to consider and I want to ensure that the model we present is robust, flexible, well-considered and builds on the firm foundations of the existing system.

It is absolutely essential for us all to work together to bring about the best prospects for our island children during a very sensitive, complicated and what might be at times a difficult period of educational change.

Our President, Deputy Le Pelley and the committee have been consistently clear that we will carry out the States direction whatever the outcome of the vote and this has been reaffirmed since members by majority voted against selection at 11 at the end of last year.

We have committed to looking diligently at all options to ensure our island children benefit not only themselves, but also their families and our wider community through their education and skills developed over their lifetime.

I do Sir, consider that this motion using the words of Deputy Ferbrache is “thin gruel”. It is weak for various reasons. Not least of all because Deputy Yerby has taken my words out of context and misinterpreted them, in order to suit her aims in laying this motion.

This distortion of the facts is used as her first argument in the motion against the Committee, stating that during the December debate I gave as my principal reason for withdrawing support for non-selective admission as ……“the lack of confidence that the Committee had in its own ability to manage the risks associated with the transition”. …….

Well this is baffling.  Why would I seek to undermine myself and the committee, who are the best people in this Assembly to deliver any change in the Education system? The people who have been tasked with the job of delivering the change by the States, the people who have spent 8 months researching, working and liaising with stakeholders? The people who want to do the job they have been asked to do.  Why would I seek to undermine us?

I will simply refer members back to Hansard to my speech on 30th November for the correct statements that I actually made.

Where is the unity which Deputy Yerby pledged to help deliver the best quality and the greatest educational opportunity for all our children? She stated in the debate that like Deputy Graham and he has reiterated again today:

“WHATEVER WE DECIDE I WILL MOVE ON… INSTEAD OF FIGHTING THE SAME FIGHT”.  I consider that she has not moved on and that she has insisted on staying to fight the same fight, the outcome of which has now been decided and which the majority of us have accepted.

Our current diverse Committee, led by Deputy Le Pelley. is conscientious and dedicated, we work well together, we discuss and challenge various concepts, always mindful of the middle path.  We consider the parents’ wishes, the school children and their well-being as well as their future, also the advice of the teaching staff and educational specialists, we think about the impact of their educational success on the economy. We believe it is essential to take parents and other stakeholders with us, through honest and open communication to achieve success on this new education pathway.

Our stance to bring parents along us is clearly at odds with the views of Deputy Tooley, a co-signatory to the motion who, in my view, dismissively stated in her maiden speech that…”It is for us to decide a system which will best suit all of the children on the Island, whether or not their parents are bothered, whether or not they even vote. ………………” Our small, tight knit community values being part of major decisions, especially where it concerns their children’s future

I understand my community and how they want to be involved and how they want us, to work with them. They must not be dismissed, their opinion must not be ignored. They must be brought along with us in this change. Change management is in itself an educational process which requires excellent communication and quality time spent with the stakeholders.

Negligence lies with the signatories to this motion.  There has been no attempt to look at the work done to date by the committee, to assess the value added by members of the committee to the mandate, no balancing of the strengths against the weaknesses, no questions asked about our work plans, no constructive challenge or questions to find out facts and weigh up the evidence to make an informed judgement.  This motion does not stand up to scrutiny in itself, it is a badly formed and ill-founded.

The Committee has a large remit of responsibility and we have a full portfolio of work. Since taking my seat, I know that already I have made a valuable contribution to the Committee and to the wider States. My background and professional reputation built up over a 20 year period in Finance and Digital benefits much of the work that I have been doing across both of my Committees.

The work which I undertake on the Committee is very enjoyable. As a member I have the privilege of sitting on a few sub-committees including the Council of St James, Guernsey Training Agency, the Children’s Executive, SACRE, the University Working Party, the Guernsey Pre-School Group, Blanchelande College, I chair Skills Guernsey and am a Commissioner for Guernsey Arts Commission.

My involvement with these groups has already seen a return on investment for the Committee, for example the healing of the rift between the previous Board and the Pre-School Learning Alliance and the development of a re-established relationship.

With Skills Guernsey, I have made a large personal contribution of time and effort in re-constituting and pulling back together the Skills Guernsey Management Board which was picked apart at the end of the last term.  The island Skills Strategy we are working to deliver will be of particular use to the Committees of Education Sport & Culture, Economic Development, Health & Social Services and Social Security & Employment. Additionally Skills Guernsey will have an important relationship with Home and help to inform the Population Management Panel lead by former Deputy Peter Gillson.

I have never been asked to describe the work I do or justify my position on the Committee to any of the signatories and nor to my knowledge have my colleagues.  This motion can only therefore be a personal attack because there has been no negligence, no failure on the part of the Committee in the execution of its duties to oversee its mandate.  Due to the lack of due diligence undertaken by the supporters of this motion, they can only resort to picking apart the Committee via personal attacks, pedantic scrutiny, undue criticism and character assassination.

This undermining of the Committee has now been going since our term began. We have been subject to nasty emails from a relative of one of the signatories to the motion. We have been subject to inordinate and biased media coverage from the Press where Deputies Roffey & Yerby unashamedly promote their views. We have been subject to a general undercurrent of negativity which has been stoked by some of the signatories and their supporters in this chamber for quite some time now. This is unacceptable this Committee needs no further distractions and time wasting, Guernsey deserves better government.

Sir, it is with regret that I find myself speaking before you today. The bringing of this motion has been shameful for our States.

The Vote of no Confidence has been used here in an attempt to further the agenda of a select few, some who are even not States members. At the expense of the public purse in wasting precious resources to bring it to this level. All so unnecessary and for what purpose – political game playing at its core.

Despite the protestations to the contrary by Deputies Yerby, de Sausmarez & Tindall, the comments by both Deputies Le Tocq & Fallaize in relation to the motion on the BBC Phone In before Christmas, sought to destroy the reputation and the integrity of our President and by association the remaining members of the Committee. They have made this a personal vendetta.

I have looked particularly hard at other members of the Chamber especially those who support the motion and may want to take the Presidency and with all sincerity cannot think of anyone better suited to the role of President than Deputy Le Pelley.  The President needs to have a variety of different skills, experience and knowledge to effectively do this job and Deputy Le Pelley has the right combination of these.

He is excellent in Committee bringing people together, smoothing ruffled feathers with some of the sensitive items we have to deal with such as pay or contract negotiations. He has the skills to pull together details and conclude succinctly. He respects and listens to his team and encourages active participation from all members to get the jobs done. He has the most relevant of experience with his 30 years teaching and as a Unions negotiator! His unrivalled knowledge of the Museum and cultural, historical and linguistic aspects of Guernsey, as well as having served for 4 years as a member of Culture & Leisure in the last States make him ideal for this visible role, which needs substance behind it.

Deputy Le Pelley is the right person to lead this Committee. He is the safe pair of hands that we need to manage the delicate changes to our Education system over the next few years.

I ask members not to support this motion. Please vote contre.