Scrutiny has ramped up the pressure on the Education Minister by making a rare statement in the States Assembly about his failure to give them the information on school funding that they want.
Deputy Rob Ward, who chairs the Children, Education and Home Affairs Panel, stood this morning to express his disappointment that he had to make a formal statement – something the panel “had not taken lightly."
Scrutiny panels are currently reviewing the Government Plan – how taxpayers’ money will be spent between 2022 and 2025, which is due to be debated next month – and Deputy Ward’s panel asked Deputy Scott Wickenden for two pieces of information in confidence: a report about inclusion and details about the revised funding formula for schools, which are both parts of an ongoing reform programme.
Deputy Ward told the States: “Despite repeated requests to have this information shared with the Panel, including during a public hearing on 1 November, over 30 days later the information had yet to be provided, despite the Code of Engagement between the Executive and Scrutiny Panels and PAC. setting out a five-day response time for requests for information.
He continued: “The panel received a response from the Minister on Monday 22 November which explained that it was intended for the inclusion review report to be taken to Council of Ministers on 30 November.
Pictured: The Children, Education and Home Affairs Panel say they need more information before it can properly review the Government Plan.
“Furthermore, only information previously provided to the Panel in relation to the funding formula was shared.
“I must be clear; the panel’s request was for sight of the inclusion review report itself and the details of the actual funding formula. While the panel thanks the Minister for his response, neither of the pieces of information specifically requested have been provided to the Panel.”
“The reason for making this statement today is that we as a panel need to highlight the difficult task we have been presented with undertaking scrutiny of the Government Plan, especially the funding of education, which is one of the most important areas of investment within the Government Plan.
“The Panel deems the information requested vital to its review and without it, it cannot deliver an objective assessment and fulfil its role.”
Deputy Ward referred to a panel hearing last month, when governors of Haute Vallée school handed back a poster with the Government’s ‘putting child first’ pledge on it because, they said, non-fee-paying schools were being underfunded by £23m.
He told the States: “While the Minister initially rebutted this figure publicly during a hearing, he went on to state that a figure was being quality assured as part of the school funding formula process.
"The panel has been informed that a quality assurance process is being undertaken, however, there have been very few details shared with it as to what this process entails other than those involved in the process.
Pictured: Haute Vallée governors hand a 'putting children first' sign over to Scrutiny at a hearing last month.
“In order for the new formula to be in place for 2022, there is little time left for this to completed to allow time for examination by the Panel should this information not be available to the panel.”
Deputy Ward asked Deputy Wickenden to provide the two pieces of information the panel had asked for to be sent before the end of Tuesday’s sitting.
Facing questions after giving his statement, Deputy Ward said that the failure to receive the information appeared to be because the minister thought it should be approved by the Council of Ministers before being sent to Scrutiny.
This, however, was an incorrect interpretation of the Scrutiny process, he said. Deputy Ward added that his panel would be reluctant to attempt to force the minister to hand over the information, nor did it want to go above his head and request the Council of Ministers to provide it.
Pictured: Education Minister Scott Wickenden: "I cannot share something that I do not have".
Later in the sitting, answering questions without notice, Deputy Wickenden said: "I have been replying to the Scrutiny panel whenever they have been writing to me, I have offered them a briefing on the funding review, and I have made it clear that when the process has been followed, which I have set out, the reports go to the Council of Ministers and it will then be shared with the panel.
"This is no different to the process and policy set out by [former Education Minister] Senator Vallois during the School Funding Review.
"I cannot share the funding formula with the Scrutiny Panel because I do not have it.
"I cannot share something that I do not have, and it would be unhelpful for any amendment to share incomplete information."
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