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To build a town school or not to build a town school? That is the question...

To build a town school or not to build a town school? That is the question...

Wednesday 15 May 2024

To build a town school or not to build a town school? That is the question...

Wednesday 15 May 2024


A political battle appears to be brewing over whether a £40m new primary school still needs to be built in the centre of town.

The former Jersey Gas site adjacent to Millenium Town Park is currently reserved for educational use.

Current Education Minister Rob Ward and former Education Minister Inna Gardiner have committed to the project, having both brought separate amendments to the Bridging Island Plan to secure the land.

Push to keep the commitment

But the Common Strategic Policy, which sets out the areas where Chief Minister Lyndon Farnham and his fellow ministers want to make progress ahead of the island's next general election, does not explicitly commit to building that town school.

new_school_sites.jpg

Pictured: Areas that were previously under consideration for new schools.

Deputy Catherine Curtis, Chair of the Children, Education and Home Affairs Scrutiny Panel, now wants to amend the wording of the Common Strategic Policy to ensure that it includes reference to a town school.

At a previous Scrutiny hearing, Deputy Curtis said that there would be concern from people living in northern St Helier if there was any question that the school project would not be going ahead.

In the report accompanying her amendment, she said that there was "very little detail" in the document about how the government intended to address the "urgent need" for school facilities and infrastructure in town.

She said: "The addition of the wording in the panel's proposed amendment does not change the priorities proposed by government, but it would insert a recognition that there should be a focus on the school infrastructure and education estate in town during the remainder of this electoral term."

To build another... or to replace?

While he recently acknowledged that the island was "desperately in need" of new primary school estate, Deputy Farnham suggested it may be more appropriate to replace "two or three, or possibly four ailing primary schools with two new ones".

He said he had visited Springfield, St Luke’s and Rouge Bouillon, and was aware of staff concerns about dilapidation in some areas.

He noted there was still "capacity" in other primary schools, given changes in the island's population and the fact that the birth rate is falling.

He acknowledged there was some disagreement in government over the approach to the future school estate, however, that would need to be "thrashed out".

A skate park at Gas Place instead...?

When the review which led to the original recommendation to build a new primary school in town was first published, St Helier Constable Simon Crowcroft criticised what he described as "town cramming".

In a previous edition of Express's Politics Disassembled podcast, he said that area of town needed more open spaces for families, rather than being the best location for a new primary school. 

Now Assistant Infrastructure Minister, the Constable last month revealed that he was planning

Former Housing Minister David Warr has thrown his support behind the idea, and said that the need for the town school had passed, after recent figures showed that the island's birth rate was in decline.

This, the Constable said, could provide a replacement to the skate park on New North Quay, so that the skate community would well-served in both the east and west.

The Assistant Minister said Ministers were sitting on a "goldmine of opportunity" for children's play in the centre of town and that he was intending to bring a proposition asking States Members to back his project – and rescind the priority currently given for the site to house a new town primary school. 

In a scrutiny hearing yesterday, Infrastructure Minister Andy Jehan said there will shortly be a decision on the site of the new temporary skate park in St Helier – but confirmed that this will definitely not be Gas Place, which is still potentially earmarked for a new school. 

The Common Strategic Policy, published last month, is due to be debated by the States Assembly on 21 May.

READ MORE...

Warning over lack of future school planning (2021)

REVEALED: Gov plans for two new town primary schools (2022)

OPEN LETTER: Play.com site should be considered for new school (2022)

Ministers push ahead with Gas Place school amid "town cramming" fears (2022)

Play.com or Gas Place? Deputy pushes for 'rapid review' of school options (2022)

FOCUS: Could a 'Bean' drain be Jersey's next big challenge? (2023)

DIGEST: Why is Jersey's birth rate continuing to fall? (2023)

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