St. Brelade's Constable has revealed a school was forced to ask the Parish to supply a bin as it couldn’t afford it – on the same day that the States Assembly threw out a bid to boost funding for schools and children with special educational needs.
Constable Mike Jackson’s comments came as the States Assembly was debating an amendment to the Government Plan 2022-2025 brought forward by St. Helier Deputy Rob Ward on Thursday.
While earlier in the morning the former teacher successfully pushed through plans for a new £20 bus pass system for under-18s, States Members rejected Deputy Ward's proposals to give all schools a guaranteed minimum 15% ‘headroom funding’, which is what’s left after fixed costs such as wages are removed.
The next vote - on extra funding for special educational needs children - was tied, meaning that it did not pass.
Deputy Ward explained during the debate that headroom funding was necessary because schools were already struggling to fund basic teaching materials and running deficits.
CLICK TO ENGLARGE: The full chart of spending on schools from 2016 to 2020, showing how a majority ended 2020 in the red.
Speaking in support of the proposal, Deputy Ward's Reform Jersey colleague Senator Mézec evoked Squid Game and painted a picture of individuals fighting over dollar bills as he spoke of the current funding difficulties schools are facing. He noted that local teachers often had to spend their own money to supplement their classroom budgets.
The Education Minister, Deputy Scott Wickenden, accused Deputy Rob Ward of simply following what he described as unsubstantiated claims by Haute Vallée's Board of Governors, who complained to Deputy Ward's Children and Education Scrutiny Panel in October that schools across the island were underfunded to the tune of £23m.
But Senator Tracey Vallois - herself a former Education Minister - hit back. She said it was impossible to provide exact evidence of how much funding schools needed because the Minister had repeatedly refused to share the results of a recent review of school funding.
She further explained that the current formula for calculating how much funding they get was outdated by three decades.
Pictured: Senator Mézec said teachers in the island were spending their own money to supplement their classroom budgets.
“The world is very different to what it was 30 years ago, the needs of children and young people are very different to what they were 30 years ago… and the education system has fundamentally changed,” she said.
Constable Jackson gave a personal account of the difficulties schools are facing, revealing that one school in St. Brelade - which he did not name - had asked if the Parish would be prepared to supply a rubbish bin, a situation which Deputy Ward later described as “a disgrace”, adding: “It’s genuinely, in the truest sense of the word, pathetic."
Urging the Assembly to support his funding boost plan, he reminded States Members that schools have no money to spend on extra resources and are left having to make “a purse out of a sow’s ear”. He said that current funding arrangements forced schools to always go "for the cheapest", which wouldn't happen in the "world-class education system" the island wants.
Despite his calls for States Members to "do the right thing", the proposals were narrowly rejected with 22 votes against and 21 pour.
Deputy Ward's Children and Education Panel also failed to secure a £10m increase to the budget for the Education Department to fund special educational needs and cover any shortfall in the 2022 school funding formula.
Deputy Wickenden said the Panel hadn’t identified how the £10m would be funded and pledged to “continue to fund the gaps where they are identified”.
Senator Tracey Vallois reminded the Minister he had a legal duty to provide education and that the Government needed to invest in children.
Pictured: The Education Minister, Deputy Scott Wickenden, opposed both proposals.
Former teacher Deputy Louise Doublet urged States Members to reflect on what was fundamental for them, adding it would be hard to find States Members who do not believe education, alongside health, is “one of the highest priorities we should invest in”.
“The Government Plan does not do that … it does not align with our values,” she said. “I find it hard to believe a Minister is saying 'no' to money which is needed.”
The Chief Minister, Senator John Le Fondré, rejected the view that the Government is not 'putting children first', arguing that the funding available to the Education Department had been “significantly increased” since 2019.
Pictured: The Constable of St. Martin urged States Members to nurture and respect the skills of all children.
As the Assembly was split with 21 votes for and 21 votes against, the amendment was defeated.
The States Assembly has voted to REJECT the Children, Education & Home Affairs Scrutiny Panel’s amendment to the Government Plan. https://t.co/JXRRhtfHxR— States Assembly - Jersey's elected parliament (@StatesAssembly) December 16, 2021
Meanwhile, proposals to fund the £2.05m extra costs of the Nursery Education Fund for three to four-year-olds following the hourly rate increase and the increase in provision from 20 to 30 hours were withdrawn.
It came after the Education Minister committed to provide a report and a statement on the position of the Nursery Education Fund and the action plan for early years before the end of March 2022.
AMENDMENTS: The 26 spending battles being fought this week
SCRUTINY'S VIEW: Flurry of recommendations issued before Gov Plan debate kicks off
Express spoke to Haute Vallée's Chair of the Board of Governors, Philip Le Claire, in October about how local schools cope with slashed budgets, and what 'putting children first' really looks like...
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