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Teacher hostility ramps up pressure for U-turn

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SOME senior deputies are privately predicting a U-turn in the States on the two large comprehensive schools, amid mass opposition from teachers.

Education president Deputy Matt Fallaize answering questions at Monday night’s drop-in at Beau Sejour. (Picture by Adrian Miller, 26948123

In a straw poll of politicians, in which just over half responded, most said they were sticking with their position from September last year, when the Assembly voted by 22-15 to give financial backing to the schools.

However, some believe there are enough deputies willing to change sides this close to the election to make a difference.

If that is the case, those deputies are staying tight-lipped, and only a few have said publicly that they are even considering their position.

Since the vote in September, a survey by the National Education Union revealed that most teachers had no confidence in the two-school model, and this week a bombshell letter signed by 95% of St Sampson’s staff called the plans ‘calamitous’ and ‘ill-considered’.

Responding to the concerns of teachers, Deputy Andrea Dudley-Owen has published a draft requete which calls for a one-year delay and further consideration of other non-selective models.

Seasoned politicians have said privately that the huge opposition of teachers is likely to be the ‘straw that breaks the camel’s back’, especially in the run-up to June’s general election.

Absent from the vote in September were Charles Parkinson, Joe Mooney and Victoria Oliver.

Deputy Parkinson said yesterday that he was undecided.

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‘I haven’t made up my mind. I originally wanted four specialist schools, but I was persuaded to support the two-school model on the basis that we were told it was what the teachers wanted. Well, it now appears that was not the case.’

Deputy Mooney said he wanted the Varendes school to be considered in the mix.

‘The school at Footes Lane has great pitches for rugby, football and cricket and it has the stadium, so the key thing is how much would it cost to build that infrastructure elsewhere. We might not be able to increase the footprint of the Footes Lane school, but you could certainly go upwards.’

Deputy Chris Green, who voted to give financial backing to the two-school model last year, took a provisional stance that the draft requete was worthy of serious consideration.

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‘In the circumstances, there may be some merit in considering a delay so that a proper re-evaluation can take place.

‘Ultimately, and before voting on this, I would want to understand fully from the Committee for Education, Sport & Culture as to what are the full implications of any delay so I can assess those impacts.

As vice-president of the Development & Planning Authority, Deputy Oliver did not feel at liberty to express her views, because there is an active planning application.

Some States members were appalled by Deputy Dudley-Owen’s requete, and called it a ‘car crash’, a ‘poor halfway house’, a ‘policy void’ and another nod to ‘yo-yo government’.

As vice-president of Education, Deputy Richard Graham has nailed his colours to the mast and remains ‘as convinced as ever that we are doing the right thing’.

That was echoed by fellow ESC members Deputy Mark Dorey, who remained ‘100%’ behind the school model, and Deputy Peter Roffey, who said they had been impacted by the teachers’ concerns over space and facilities and they were working to address them.

n The NASUWT, the largest union representing teachers in Guernsey, has called a meeting of its members today at St Sampson’s High School to discuss the two-school model.

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