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Education appointment turmoil revealed in email

News | Published:

AN EXPLOSIVE message from Education’s president Matt Fallaize to the committee’s then chief secretary exposes the extent of political interference in the appointment of the new head of head of curriculum and standards.

Education president Matt Fallaize. (25359028)

The episode, which culminated in Deputy Fallaize threatening to resign after his pick was not initially chosen, led to a threat of a no confidence vote in the chief secretary, and also a payout to another civil servant which avoided a claim for constructive dismissal going to a public hearing.

Details of the tumultuous appointment are laid bare in correspondence seen by the Guernsey Press and information gathered since Education, Sport & Culture president Matt Fallaize cited legal advice in not answering a series of questions about the saga posed by Deputy Andrea Dudley-Owen in the States.

Under questioning he had said these roles were appointed by the States as an employer: ‘They are not political appointments.’

It all comes just weeks after the States was warned that it is a key constitutional principle that civil servants are impartial and that appointments to the civil service are made on merit and through open competition and of the risks of politicising, or being seen to politicise, the civil service.

At the start of May, Education made an announcement that a head teacher from a London school would take up the role.

There was no sign of the turmoil that had preceded this, and there has been no announcement that the chief secretary, who had been appointed in July last year because of her ‘experience in leadership and management’, had left the job.

Four shortlisted candidates were interviewed by a panel on Wednesday 17 April. One of these candidates was from off-island, the Guernsey Press has been told.

The interview panel consisted of the then director of education Andrew Warren, the former chief secretary Colette Falla, a HR advisor, an external education advisor and Deputy Fallaize.

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They voted four to one for an on-island candidate. Deputy Fallaize was the sole vote against.

The initially successful candidate, understood to be a current local head teacher, was offered the job and accepted the same day, sparking frantic action.

In an email to the chief secretary that evening, Deputy Fallaize said: ‘today, in making the decision you have and therefore disregarding agreements made previously between the Committee and the Service, you have acted in a way which I sense is very likely to result in the committee expressing no confidence in you as Chief Secretary. Some members have speculated about doing so before now and I have steered us away from it, but I can do so no longer,’ he said.

‘Whatever the governance arrangement around the appointments, no Chief Secretary should act in a way which plainly and knowingly obstructs their Committee’s agreed policy agenda. This is what you have done today.

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‘At the end of the interview process, when it was clear you were going to reach a particular decision, I advised that doing so would most likely make the committee’s position untenable and lead to my certain resignation.’

He said that the Director of Education suggested a ‘period of reflection overnight’ before the scheduled board meeting the next day.

‘That would have been wise. Instead you asserted that Andrew must contact the candidates immediately. This is an aggravating factor in the deliberately obstructive act.’

The email copied in the political board members Deputies Richard Graham, Rhian Tooley, Mark Dorey and Peter Roffey, non-States member Richard Conder, States chief executive Paul Whitfield and Policy & Resources president Deputy Gavin St Pier.

According to a source, Deputy Gavin St Pier had a role in suspending the appointment process that night.

Senior civil servants met the next day to discuss the appointment.

It is said that the board had threatened to resign en masse if the successful applicant remained. Deputy Fallaize did not deny this when questioned in the States last week.

By Tuesday 23 April, the applicant, having been briefed on the situation, confirmed they were withdrawing.

But there was further fallout.

The Guernsey Press has learnt that the HR advisor resigned because they did not want to be part of what they saw as a unfair process, or have to be involved in making an out-of-policy employment permit application in which they would have to state there was no suitable on-island candidates.

An access to information request by an unnamed deputy about the employment permit process was answered on the 18 June.

The deputy said that the employer was required at the end of the form to disclose ‘how many people not needing an Employment Permit applied and why they were not employed’.

They asked for the information provided by the committee in response to this to be released.

The States declined.

‘Information relating to an employment permit application cannot be published as the Population Management Office relies upon maintaining the confidence of all customers utilising their services and that any disclosure of information risks damaging the effective management and operations of the public service.’

The Guernsey Press also submitted an API request asking how many times principal committees had lost confidence in a senior officer and how many had been moved to another committee as a result, which committee was involved, when, and which role.

This process is outlined in rule 56 of the States rules of procedure under accountability of officers.

‘There have been no instances to date where any action has been taken regarding the role of a senior officer through the invocation of rule 56. Any instances where there have been difficulties in the relationship between senior officers and political members or committees, have been handled through managerial processes.’

ESC has had five chief secretaries in the past two years.

Two left having served the current board.

The last, Colette Falla, is now part of the CEO’s senior management team as the strategic lead for supporting government.

Education, Sport & Culture was approached for further comment on the appointment process but again refused to comment.

It is due to go to the States in September asking for £157m. to be released for its secondary education reforms.

When asked a series of questions on the appointment process, Policy & Resources has previously told the Guernsey Press that it is standard policy not to comment publicly on issues relating to personnel.

Deputy Dudley-Owen, a member of the previous board, has been vocal in calling on the committee to come clean about the appointment process if it had nothing to hide.

She has said she had lost confidence in it and its work on the reforms as a result.

The head of curriculum and standards reports to the Director of Education.

They will take the lead on curriculum development across all phases of education from early years to lifelong learning; standards and assessments of students and schools; the schools’ inspection framework; and continuous professional development for head teachers and teachers. The role will line manage primary school head teachers and most education development officers and further develop the application locally of the latest educational research. They will also represent the primary phase of education in the Committee’s transforming education programme and in business as usual work.

Email text in full:

Sent: 17 April 2019 18:28

To Colette Falla

cc: Richard Graham, Rhian Tooley, Mark Dorey, Peter Roffey, Richard Conder, Paul Whitfield, Gavin St Pier

Subject: Head of Curriculum Standards

Colette

You are entitled to present such a briefing of course, but it is likely to differ markedly from any briefing the Committee would provide. Therefore the Committee will have to provide its own. Of course, unlike you, I have been in this process from the beginning - it started when we interviewed for a Director of Education, when you were unwell.

Today, in making the decision you have and therefore disregarding agreements made previously between the Committee and the Service, you have acted in a way I sense is very likely to result in the Committee expressing no confidence in you as Chief Secretary. Some members have speculated about doing so before now and I have steered us away from it, but I can do so no longer.

Whatever the governance arrangements around appointments, no Chief Secretary should act in a way which plainly and knowingly obstructs their Committee's agreed policy agenda. This is what you have done today.

At the end of the interview process, when it was clear you were going to reach a particular decision, I advised that doing so would most likely make the Committee's position untenable and lead to my certain resignation. Andrew then suggested that in the circumstances there should be a period of reflection overnight before the scheduled Committee meeting tomorrow. That would have been wise. Instead you asserted that Andrew must contact the candidates immediately. This is an aggravating factor in a deliberately obstructive act.

Matt

Matt Fallaize, Vale Deputy

President - Education, Sport & Culture.

Nick Mann

By Nick Mann

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