Education president: 'We have never said that these reforms are perfect'
TEACHERS are understandably nervous about the new secondary school system given the scale of the changes being made, says the president of Education, Sport & Culture.
Matt Fallaize says that the States must consult with staff and agree a way forward quickly.
‘We understand that staff in schools are anxious about their own futures. Every teacher has been assured there will be a teaching role for them in the new structure, but of course they want to know more detail and our officers, school leaders and union colleagues are trying to provide it as soon as possible.
‘We anticipate that there will shortly be a period of consultation with staff on the proposed future staff structure. The sooner we can get that agreed and start making further appointments the better.’
Deputy Fallaize was responding to a highly critical open letter signed by 88 staff at St Sampson’s High School.
The teaching, support staff and other professionals at the school said that they had been actively discouraged from speaking out.
Deputy Fallaize disagreed. ‘The States as employer has assured staff in schools many times that they are free to express their views directly or through unions. My committee has never once discouraged anyone working in a school from expressing their views as they see fit.’
The objections were to be expected, he said. ‘Of course, managing change on a large scale is hugely challenging. The States as an organisation is not used to change on this scale. There were always going to be periods of unease and opposition along the way.
‘We have never said that these reforms are perfect, but they are much better than any other way of organising non-selective secondary education.’
Deputy Fallaize accepted there were concerns about transport. ‘The challenges are surmountable with modest changes in travel choices and some infrastructure improvements. We have to base our education system around what is best educationally for students, but we also have work ahead to assure our community that the transport arrangements will be satisfactory.'
He disagreed with parts of the staff argument. ‘There are some claims in the letter which must be corrected. By any objective measure, the new Victor Hugo College will have more space and better facilities than taxpayers would be expected to fund in many other jurisdictions where educational outcomes are at least as good as ours.
‘The school and the site will be large enough for the number of students, the circulation space is being enhanced and the sports facilities will be of a very high standard and the envy of many schools of the same size or larger.
'There are many non-selective schools succeeding with less space, narrower corridors and worse sport facilities than we are developing at Victor Hugo College without the anarchy which opponents of these reforms would have you believe is coming.’
He also said claims about problems with student absence, drop-outs and discipline were ‘highly misleading’.
‘They are based on studies of schools significantly larger than the two colleges we are introducing. Of the leading 200 non-selective schools nationally, 80% of them are 11-18 schools and the average size of these schools is 1,350 students. These are schools with low levels of absence, good discipline and above all great leadership.’
And he challenged deputies fighting against the plans to come up with something better. ‘Every other model put forward previously has been rejected. We note that our critics who say they are putting together a requete which in effect would scrap the current reforms have not yet committed to an alternative solution. I hope they will soon, so that people can assess the advantages of and disadvantages of their model compared to the reforms now under way.
‘It would be irresponsible to stop the current reforms with no idea about what to do instead.
‘The requete will be another opportunity to demonstrate again the benefits of 11-18 education, which we can deliver only in two colleges if as a community we want all students to have the same opportunities and resources and access to high quality facilities.’