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Deputies behind schools requete ‘overwhelmed by public support’

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POLITICIANS heading the charge to halt the two large comprehensive schools have said they have been overwhelmed by public support.

Deputies Andrea Dudley-Owen, Rob Prow and Carl Meerveld, left, have published a requete calling for a one-year pause to the education reforms. (Picture by Adrian Miller, 26963373)

Deputies Andrea Dudley-Owen, Rob Prow and Carl Meerveld have each been taken aback by ‘unprecedented’ numbers of people coming forward on the street, by email and by phone to offer their backing.

The deputies have drafted a requete which calls for a one-year pause to the education transformation programme.

They also want to see the Committee for Education, Sport & Culture directed to come up with a report that includes a comprehensive comparison of different non-selective education models, so that deputies can make a properly informed choice.

Deputy Dudley-Owen rebuffed allegations that some politicians were pandering to populism in the light of the public outcry.

‘That quite frankly is completely naive. I’ve been an opposer of this particular model since it was introduced back in January 2018. Having worked on the committee for 18 months with the professionals that were employed, we turned over every stone and looked at the various, viable permutations of delivering non-selective education in Guernsey, and I want that learning to be shared.

‘So this is not a knee-jerk reaction. We have been asking for this information for a long time and we know that there is no silver bullet.

‘I should stress that my personal views about the infeasibility of the two-school model and what we’re trying to achieve with the requete are separate.’

Last September, the States Assembly voted by 22-15 to give financial backing to the new schools at Baubigny and Les Beaucamps, and the leaders of the requete are hopeful that the vote could be overturned when the issue is debated again in the early spring.

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Crucially, they say that politicians who originally backed the two-school model are now getting cold feet because of the reaction from teachers, the douzaines and the community.

A letter backed by 95% of teachers at St Sampson’s School and another by 90% of teachers at La Mare has significantly upped the ante.

Teachers are worried about a detrimental impact to students in a larger school, although that view has been challenged by Education, Sport & Culture.

It is obvious from the letter that the teachers also feel kicked in the teeth, because they have been asked to support the massive change, whilst at the same time having their guaranteed parking taken away.

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Critics of the requete have called it a ‘dog’s breakfast’ and a ‘policy void’ which would extend the uncertainty for pupils and their parents, putting education in the vague direction of an unknown destination.

Their case is that whilst ‘time to pause’ sounds seductive, the practical implications have not been thought out. For instance it is considered impossible to pause children’s education, especially at La Mare de Carteret School.

Students from Les Varendes are due to move to Baubigny in September 2022, but if the construction work does not start this year then there will not be any space for them.

Deputy Dudley-Owen is confident these practical considerations can be overcome.

‘The pupils at Les Varendes could stay there. If that is so damaging then why is it not damaging to this year?’

‘They would still have very high calibre staff, so a one-year delay is not insurmountable, especially considering the context that is Guernsey’s education system for the next 50 years.’

Helen Bowditch

By Helen Bowditch
News reporter

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