Questions to ESC from Thursday's meeting

FROM THURSDAY’S MEETING AT LES VARENDES

La Mare de Carteret High School does not figure in the plans for secondary education that will be put before the States in July. 
(Picture by Sophie Rabey, 29601260)
La Mare de Carteret High School does not figure in the plans for secondary education that will be put before the States in July. (Picture by Sophie Rabey, 29601260)

Q: What makes you believe so vehemently that your model is going to pass muster in the community? And what evidence do you have to back that up?

A: I think one of the differences now is the timing. I think people are very very tired of this debate, they want this resolved, this model is equal to or better than models that have gone before, but there’s no guarantee – its progress is down to the Assembly at the end of the day.

And I think the other issue that focuses minds is the lack of money. We don’t have an open cheque book any more, we have to use the money that we’ve got wisely, which is why we’re not asking the States for more money to run the system – but the upside of this is that we get an amazing post-16 learning centre of excellence and that is a game-changer for the island. So I can make no guarantees, but I think given the circumstances that we find ourselves in, at this point in the journey, it’s now time to make a final decision, and I think the Assembly thinks the same way.

Q: For a lot of people the election was about ‘Pause and Review’, they wanted to have a comparison of various models so they could actually see what compromises were being made on each model. Even for the deputies, surely having that comparison would be a better way?

A: The interim report compiled by the previous committee will be included within the policy letter and is already available online, so comparisons are going to be shown, and we obviously had to progress the model that we think is going to be the best fit for Guernsey going forward. The work that’s been done on other models is there in the policy letter.

Q: I know that in the format of a presentation you can only show so much detail and in the format of a policy letter you can show more. I feel that at this stage in the process the detail is less than last time, what is your position on that?

A: That’s not the case, we’re at a completely different stage to where the previous committee were. If you’re talking about that committee’s September 2019 policy letter, the previous committee had 18 months to work that up, we haven’t had that time and what we needed to do is come up with a high-level approach to get the States’ approval for the direction of travel, and then the detail which has been asked for by the unions and staff has to be worked up in conjunction with them. That process has already started and we’re going to be working through that up until 2024.

Q: I thought the operational date of September 2024 seems a little ambitious. I have a daughter who is currently finishing Year 9 and she will be in Year 12 at the time she would be crossing over to the new campus. Can you confirm that if you’ve not finished building the campus there will be sufficient space here [at Les Varendes]?

A: The local construction industry is red hot at this point in time, which could be a problem for this build, so what we might need to explore is an off-island modular build so that the on-island construction phase could be done more quickly. Les Varendes is capable of taking 1,200 students – we don’t want that, but there is some built-in capability if our timeline was to start to slip. The biggest problem that we have in terms of reaching the deadline is if the States doesn’t make a decision in July. If they don’t and we have to rethink and come back with other ideas, that timeline will slip.

The Guernsey Institute will still continue on its journey, but the sixth form construction will be put back at least a year and that delay could cost potentially up to £5m., so it’s really critical that a decision is taken in July if the States want to go along this particular route.

Q: Would you give a new social housing building project to a company that came along with no more than a basic plan and no details? I suggest that the answer would be no. You really need to give us a bit more if you want our support.

I’m one of the teachers that last night you said were ‘resigned to the closing of La Mare’. I’d like to know how far ‘resigned’ means that you’ve got our support? And what are the numbers that tell you that you have the support of staff?

A: I do apologise for that unfortunate phrasing, that was rather insensitive of us. We have not done any numbers in terms of determining exactly what the extent of the staff support is, but we have engaged and we have met you at your school setting and we’ve road-showed the model before the policy letter is published. We know that this is a very difficult issue, there’s never going to be 100% coalescence around one model because someone is always going to have to change where they work and what they’re doing now.

Q: For me it’s about educational outcomes. If each school has its own culture and way of working, how can you be sure that each school will offer the same educational standard and we aren’t going to see a situation where people will move parishes?

A: In the past we’ve conflated a model with educational outcomes, and while we know that the model and buildings can put barriers in the way of learning, the buildings themselves and the model is not what determines that excellence. It’s the teachers inside the building, and the leadership of our schools that determines the excellence. Please do not think that it’s just the model that will equal excellent education, it’s a variety of things and the most important thing is the quality of our teaching staff.

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