‘Increasing size of schools would cost millions extra’
THE COST to the Guernsey taxpayer of meeting teachers’ concerns about overcrowding in the new two- school model has been estimated at tens of millions of pounds.
A lack of space was the top concern of teachers in a survey by the National Education Union, which showed a general picture of dissatisfaction and apprehension over the schools’ transformation.
‘We cannot exceed the authorised budget of the States, if the States wants to provide tens of millions of pounds more for school redevelopment then the size of the buildings can be adjusted accordingly,’ said Education president Matt Fallaize.
‘But I think I have participated in four debates over two States terms where the States have rejected proposals for buildings with a footprint larger than can reasonably be justified, and there is no point in continuing to go down that course because the consequence is that you just have students in the wholly inadequate facilities which exist at the present time and we have to get beyond that.’
Deputy Fallaize was responding to questions from Deputy Andrea Dudley-Owen, who wanted to highlight the teachers’ concerns and the fears of the douzaines.
In September last year the States agreed to spend £77.9m. on the all- ability schools at St Sampson’s and Les Beaucamps, but the debate reopened when the teachers released their survey results, and when the planning application with traffic impact assessments was submitted.
On the criticism of overcrowding, Deputy Fallaize outlined that the proposed buildings are ‘significantly bigger’ than the national space standards, and that if national space standards had been applied the project would have cost a lot less at around £40m.
Three out of four of the secondary schools are currently under-populated and it is thought that teachers have become accustomed to having a lot of extra space.
Deputy Fallaize promised that they were very open to suggestions from teachers.
‘These discussions continue to lead to modifications in the layout of the buildings at both sites, recently this has included changes to the layout of the colleges’ science labs and preparation rooms, and proposals being put forward, which we are minded to develop, about how more space could be made available for libraries and independent study areas.’
Deputy Fallaize agreed that communication of the plans with teachers and the public had been inadequate, but there was now fresh commitment to getting that bit right.
Consultation with teachers is ongoing and a series of meetings and drop-in sessions are planned for parents.
Forums are being established to take on board the views of residents and the douzaines.
Deputy Emilie McSwiggan said that change of this scale required an ‘unprecedented’ level of communication, and she gave kudos to Deputy Fallaize for the amount of public scrutiny he had put himself up for.