Guernsey Press

‘The road of good intentions has led to hell’

The Ofsted report on St Sampson’s High School, released this week, has left Horace Camp seething.

St Sampson’s High School was labelled ‘inadequate’ in an Ofsted report. (Picture by Peter Frankland, 31025687)

I HAVE normally written my column by now.

But this week my blood is too hot to put pen to paper – and I’m not blaming El Scorchio.

I am rarely angry about anything. Outraged yes, but angry no. However, the Ofsted report on St Sampson’s High has released a great tsunami of anger within me.

OK, I walked away from my iPad to try and calm down a bit and it’s now two hours after I wrote the above.

My anger level is down to seething and I think it’s time for this old man to shout at clouds again.

My old school motto is ‘semper eadem’. For those of you who didn’t receive a classical education, or haven’t yet discovered Google Translate, it loosely translates as ‘always the same’.

I feel it should be adopted by the States. For a very long time our public education system has been terrible, it continues to be terrible and without drastic action it will continue to be terrible.

Mr Mulkerrin told us how terrible it was 10 years ago. And what was even worse, it was obvious that the States knew it was terrible but didn’t want to tell us just how bad it was. In fact, they deliberately obfuscated the situation so much that what they did tell us was more lie than truth.

Forty years ago my eldest’s school would have received a similar inspection report and the best thing the States did was to close it and they will soon be knocking it down.

There is an underlying educational issue in Guernsey that some children don’t want to be educated. In fact, it’s a waste of time educating them. The joke is that St Sampson’s was built near the prison to acclimatise its future population.

I’m a great supporter of the Guernsey Way but not in cases like this where it does not benefit our community.

Education has changed a lot here. My parents left school at 12 and 13 respectively. Dad worked for his dad by driving a horse and cart delivering coal. At 12 he could carry a hundredweight bag on his back.

Mum at 13 went into service as a live-in general dogsbody. My siblings mostly left school at 14 to 16 to mostly do manual jobs. Schools like St Sampson’s were turning out greenhouse hands at 14 or 15.

Those days have gone.

For better or worse, talent, work ethic and enthusiasm are trumped by a piece of paper saying Johnny has studied a subject, which will probably be irrelevant once he leaves school, for two years and has scored more than 40% in the final exam.

The only way we can help our children get ahead in this modern age is to get them those meaningless pieces of paper which act as the key to the next level of life.

And we can’t even do that.

Reading the Ofsted report is heartbreaking when you relate that back to the future opportunities we have stunted. And putting inclusion and equality aside, we have even insisted that the 25% of our children who had a route to better schools are now forced to attend this underperforming school if they lose in the postcode lottery.

Perhaps that’s why the St Sampson’s staff were so eager to support retaining the 11-plus, because even they couldn’t stomach forcing more bright young things into their Slough of Despond.

Ofsted found some ‘strengths’ at St Sampson’s. But those very strengths identify the problem with the school. For instance, here’s one: ‘The school provides students with rich cultural and artistic experiences.’ How lovely.

I will balance it with a weakness: ‘The quality of education at the school is not good enough.’

They may be receiving a substandard education but at least they can appreciate a Pollock.

Another strength: ‘Leaders’ work to achieve the Rights Respecting Schools Award [silver] demonstrates that most students have strong moral and social awareness.’

Weakness: ‘Pupils’ behaviour around the school is poor, which sometimes goes unchecked because staff do not apply the behaviour policy consistently.’

So at least the kids know their rights when challenging teachers.

The 11-plus is like Brexit – a done deal, and we will never see it again.

No point crying over spilled milk, eh?

But why did we decide, knowing how bad St Sampson’s was, to not let at least a quarter of kids go to schools that do work? Equality seems to mean if one has to go to an inadequate school, then all must go.

It is clear from the comments that the head was sent in two years ago to start cleaning up the mess. She did a good job at the much smaller La Mare and this in itself proves the point that bigger schools are harder to change cultures in.

And while we are on the subject of management, it is so bad there that four new deputy and assistant heads are being injected into the school like the SAS .

Just how much managing does a school take?

We have a director of education, an executive principal and the head teacher, now to be supported by a posse of deputies.

Reading the inspection I think the deputies need to be more like Wyatt Earp than Mr Chippings.

And what about the owners of this mess, the politicians?

Former Deputy Sherbourne has long advocated the need to reform education in Guernsey.

And for all those decades he was moaning about the cost of rifle ammunition for the College CCF he was right.

Strip out the politics of envy from his argument and his reasoning was sound.

Once ideology came into play, it was obvious changes were afoot. Former (sadly) Deputy Fallaize picked up the ball and ran with it to the Land of Candy Mountains where the unicorns roam.

Unfortunately, being one of the few can-do deputies, he did make something happen and, to be honest, the underlying logic of his dream was sound.

But then into the Land of Candy Mountains came Deputy Dudley-Owen in her red ruby slippers, who killed the unicorn and made it into a sow’s ear.

This would all be fine if the only people affected were deputies debating it in the Assembly.

But, sadly, the road of good intentions has once again led to hell for many of our children.

The Good Deputy ADO has washed her hands of responsibility by endorsing the head and implying that success or failure is entirely down to Mrs Godley.

Deputy Dudley-Owen was the driving force for upending Matt Fallaize’s plan which, though unlikely to have worked, would have put us in a better place than we are today.

While I accept I am not in the most rational of places on this topic, being still seething, I do believe the one to accept that the buck stops with her is Deputy Dudley-Owen.

However, I don’t expect a resignation because I believe it will prove harder to winkle her out of her presidency than it was dragging Boris out of Number 10.