Recruitment process for new head rotten and unacceptable

EDUCATION’S determination to drive through its reform package has become a disease that has infested how it behaves.

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Revelations this weekend in the Guernsey Press about the recruitment process for the head of curriculum and standards have shown just how far a political board is willing to go to get their own way.

Resignations were threatened when their preferred candidate was not chosen for a senior leadership post, senior staff sent off to brief the local person who had been chosen and accepted the job on just what they could expect if they carried on.

This sorry affair has dragged in the top echelons of Frossard House, and the Policy & Resources president, all hastily acting to manipulate an outcome which now appears to be all but pre-determined.

This was a position created with a preferred choice in mind, only when it became necessary for the contract to be permanent did it become an open recruitment process – although given the events that unfolded, it was open in name only.

It was not a transparent process.

It becomes even more startling when staff are told to fill in employment permits stating there are no suitable on-island candidates when demonstrably, given that of the four candidates short-listed and interviewed, three were local, there were.

For some, process and guidelines can be thrown out of the window if what is achieved is success, to pick and get a team of yes people. That is what this board will be telling itself and no doubt its supporters will too.

But what of the long-term damage?

Who now looking at the States – and Education in particular – sees fairness?

Who sees independence from political interference?

How can anyone trust a committee that is so willing to work the dark arts while signing up to a mantra of good governance?

There should be an independent review of this whole sorry mess.

Only weeks ago the States was being reminded by the law officers of the need, as Guernsey’s largest employer, to be an exemplar for everyone else to follow.

Members were also warned about the dangers of constructive dismissal cases that would be indefensible if the political and operational lines were crossed.

Sitting in that debate, the Education board members and P&R president knew exactly what was going on in the background.

Education’s president Matt Fallaize was largely the architect of the new system of government – his actions in this recruitment process shine a fresh light on why it was seen acceptable to write into the members’ rules of procedure how senior officers will be brought into line if the board was unhappy with them.

There is no escaping the fact that a much clearer line needs to be drawn on what is and isn’t political and operational, what behaviour is and is not acceptable.

That was highlighted in the Home Affairs governance review, in the States debate on the Policy and Resource plan, and now laid bare in this episode.

Education’s chief secretary at the time of this appointment process swiftly moved back to the upper floor of Frossard House after Deputy Fallaize made it plain that she would face a vote of no confidence from the board after she had sided with three others on the recruitment panel in preferring the local candidate.

There had clearly been tension between the two parties before, but senior staff need to be able to act with integrity – not be bullied into pre-judging an outcome or ignoring the evidence before their very eyes about who is the best candidate for a job.

The clash between some politicians and the civil service is reaching worrying proportions.

The deputies would argue they are holding staff to account, making sure the tail does not wag the dog.

It is a popular mantra in some quarters.

But what we are now seeing is that too many of the political class are stampeding through areas in which they have no right to be involved, creating carnage on the way.

ESC is desperate that its £150m. plan to move to a one-school, two-college model succeeds.

That is understandable.

But what is not acceptable is the-ends-justifies-the-means approach being taken.

This is behaviour that can seep through and infest an organisation.

The board is in the weeds of this now, hunkered down, but they must know how this looks to the public, and, if they don’t, that level of self-delusion is a massive concern.

They do have their supporters – the overriding concern being about keeping the reform package on track and delivering on the States vote.

But those who say we have not got the whole story need to remember how many opportunities Education has been given to come clean.

Every time they have dodged and weaved, ducked and dived. Whether that was to access to information requests, to dogged questioning both written and in the States from Deputy Andrea Dudley-Owen, or to media questions.

If they were on solid ground they would have confronted this all head-on months ago – they have not because what happened was rotten and unacceptable.

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