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High price of island life takes toll on teaching

High price of island life takes toll on teaching

Tuesday 22 October 2019

High price of island life takes toll on teaching


At least two candidates have declined a position as Head of Department "at the last minute" in a local school after realising the cost of living and buying a home on the island, Jersey's National Education Union President has said.

Brendan Carolan, who is also a Victoria College teacher, warned that recruitment issues in the Education Department will only get worse as time goes on, noting that, “...anyone with any economic sense would not touch Jersey with a barge pole the way things are".

Sam Cooper, Branch President for the National Association of Head Teachers, commented on the recruitment challenges during a hearing with the Corporate Services Scrutiny Panel as part of their review of the Government Plan, accompanied by Mr Sam Cooper, who is a Headteacher at d’Auvergne School and President of the National Association of Head Teachers (NAHT).

Mr Cooper explained that, at one point, he was still looking for a teacher three weeks before the start of the autumn term. 

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Pictured: Sam Cooper is the Headteacher at d'Auvergne School.

“We are in a pretty tricky place to get a class covered of primary schoolchildren without a body on a seat, so to speak,” he said, adding that the situation was common across schools. 

Mr Cooper told the Panel “you would be lucky if you get a candidate” for senior positions or senior teaching positions, while describing the recruitment of teaching assistants or key workers to work alongside some of the children “with the greatest need” as a daily challenge.

The headteacher said the “bottom line” with regards to recruitment problems in teaching is that potential UK recruits are initially interested by the salary, which is sometimes 15% more than that in the UK, but soon give up after researching the cost of living in the island. 

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Pictured: Two candidates turned down a job as Head of Department due to the "true cost" of Jersey.

Mr Carolan then told the Panel: “We have had at least two examples in the last year of people taking a job as a Head of Department and then by the time they have researched the true cost of Jersey and the fact that they will not be able to afford to buy a property, they decline the job at the last minute, leaving us in a terrible situation."

Mr Carolan also said that not enough candidates come forward - something he said will only worsen with time. To explain this, he cited the example of his Jersey-born daughter, who has just become a physics teacher in a top UK girls’ school and is thinking of buying a property next year near Manchester. 

“If she came to Jersey, she would be paying rent, but that property in Altrincham will be increasing in value by £12,000 to £20,000 a year, so to come to Jersey is like: “I will take a £12,000 pay cut, please, before we start even thinking about my wages, because I would be earning a capital gain in the U.K. and taking a capital loss by being in Jersey,” he explained.

“Anyone with any economic sense would not touch Jersey with a barge pole the way things are." 

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Pictured: Housing prices are putting off people from working in the island. 

Whilst the government is currently reviewing schools funding, Mr Cooper suggested that the situation won’t improve unless the government acknowledges that becoming a teacher in Jersey is not an attractive position for people “coming from the outside” or who do not have some heritage behind them in the island. 

“Schools need to be heavily invested in, much more heavily invested in, and the prospect of becoming a teacher in Jersey needs to be much more attractive,” he said. “That will really come down to pound signs." 

The Headteacher also raised some concerns about the impact the Target Operating Model - a detailed plan of how the government should work - has had on the recruitment of “backroom staff".

He said that while the process is not affecting schools directly, it has led to “restrictions” on the administrative support or caretakers the school needs to appoint, with schools being told to give temporary contracts only.

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Pictured: Restrictions on recruitment have made it difficult to hire "backroom staff".

“We cannot appoint those very important people on a permanent basis unless we argue for months and months and months to say that these are front line positions and should be given a permanent contract,” Mr Cooper said. 

“We cannot have really admin staff and caretakers being given nine-month contracts and expecting us to have quality applicants and for them to get to know the school and the systems, for their time to be spent efficiently and our time to be spent efficiently inducting them, but that is the climate that we are in at the moment.”

Commenting on the Government’s intention to 'put children first' as part of its plan for 2020 to 2023, Mr Cooper said it would not be deliverable unless there is “significant investment” financially - in the people and in training. 

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Posted by William Boyd on
For those who live in ivory towers and write 64 page reports on how to save £100 million, perhaps they should take 10 essential items in a shopping basket here and compare with the same 10 essentials in a UK supermarket. The same items are cheaper in the Shetlands than they are here. They also have to ship stuff in (bang goes the freight costs argument) and they are far further away from distribution centres.
Posted by Rolo Faudemer on
Would relaxing the requirements for teachers to have "Qualified Teacher Status" not help the situation?
Posted by nigel pearce on
My son is a teacher in Australia. He would love to return to Jersey but couldn't afford to. He has a four bedroom house with double garage, swimming pool and outdoor jacuzzi in a nice part of Queensland and wouldn't be able to afford a small two bedroom flat over here.
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