Guernsey Press

Reception classes to be cut in three schools from September

FALLING school rolls mean that three primary schools will each operate one fewer reception class from September.

Deputy Peter Roffey believes there is an overwhelming need to look at the number, size and location of primary schools. (Picture by Luke Le Prevost, 32127573)

Vale currently has three Reception classes but will have two in the 2023/24 academic year. La Houguette and Notre Dame du Rosaire are dropping their number of Reception classes from two to one.

The overall number of children starting at States’ primary schools this year is expected to be down on last year by about 5%.

Four of the 11 primaries will operate with only one class in Reception, including Forest, which is expected to run a year group with just 13 children.

Deputy Peter Roffey said the figures indicated an urgent need to review the primary phase of education.

‘Of course there is now an overwhelming case to review the number, size and location of our primary schools,’ he said.

‘Even if the States had made a positive decision in the tax debate, there is no reason to run services inefficiently with excess provision. But after not reaching a positive decision in the tax debate, the States really needs to hold up a mirror and see that this sort of thing cannot continue.

‘Demographics are driving up the cost of services to the older part of our population. If we’re not going to obtain the efficiencies and savings available at the other end, with the number of young people reducing, then we are going to be in even more serious financial trouble.’

Education, Sport & Culture president Andrea Dudley-Owen said now was not the right time to review primary education.

‘I agree that a review of primary education is needed and I would like to see it carried out as soon as possible. But we, both within the Assembly and within the wider community, must also be realistic,’ she said.

‘Many areas within education have needed review, improvement and transformation. It would be irresponsible and foolish to try to do all of these things at once and then fail to deliver.

‘The system has come under considerable strain from a lack of strategic political management last term and trying to do too much in too little time.

‘It is important that the States deliver on much-needed improvements for secondary and post-16 education first and do it properly, which will also unlock savings and drive improvements, before we seek to review other areas.’

The States agreed two years ago that ESC should not prioritise a review of primary education before the next general election in 2025. Deputy Roffey argued that sticking to that timeline would mean years of inefficient spending.

‘I’m worried that ESC has indicated there will be no work on the primary review in this States term,’ he said.

‘Realistically, that means at least four years from now before any changes could be made, and that’s a long time to run services inefficiently at a time when public finances are under such strain.’

The number of births dropped to fewer than 500 last year. This compared to more than 670 births in 2012.

The number of children of primary school age is anticipated to keep declining and secondary school numbers are expected to decline from the mid-2020s.