Pull together and find a solution to fund post-16 education
I have listened to most of the debates in the States of Deliberation during the last two sessions. I am deeply saddened concerning the situation in which we find ourselves as a community regarding funding for post-16 education. Whether as individuals we supported the previous system of selection, whether we lament the loss of scholarships to the independent colleges, whether we were mindful to support (or not), the various proposals since is now totally immaterial.
As a democracy we need to accept where we are and pull together to find a solution. What I find exasperating is that some members of the States are determined to try and revisit situations that have been agreed (for example, stating that sixth form studies could be retained at Les Varendes. This option was fully discussed, costed and proved to be inadequate and voted out).
From my experience elsewhere comprehensive schools under good leadership run well and achieve high educational attainment for their students. If what we offer to our post-16 students is to be truly comprehensive it needs to be on the same site. Of course, there will be separate dedicated areas for the different subjects on offer. The practical courses for the institute need their workshops and training areas. Others will be accommodated in a more traditional classroom environment. The point is, they will all be on the same site, they can share social facilities and other extracurricular activities. The aspiration of the previous States resolution to fully remove selective education would be realised.
We need a Guernsey model. It is not helpful to compare our numbers with sixth form centres elsewhere. We all know that there are smaller sixth forms here in the island, (smaller than the anticipated 400 students at Les Ozouets) which in themselves are examples of excellence. Regarding recruitment of teachers and the comment that most prefer the option to have some post-16 teaching in the mix, there are computer programmes for school timetables which could cross all three high schools and the post-16 site. There would be no need for teachers to drive back and forth across the island because blocks of teaching could be set and allocated to avoid that.
For members simply to say we can’t afford it is unrealistic. It’s unrealistic because our island economy will suffer enormously if we don’t do this. For any of us to point the finger at individual deputies is not helpful. It is perfectly reasonable for individuals to come to a different point of view once the discussion has moved on and the context has changed. Such decision-making demonstrates a responsible and mature way of dealing with each request.
I commend those who are creatively trying to find a way through and would ask those who have voted against various revenue-raising initiatives to come together and find a solution that will make this possible. Please find a way of facilitating this project ASAP.
John Guille, St Martin’s