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EXPRESS OPINION: Minister's resignation is about authority over safety

EXPRESS OPINION: Minister's resignation is about authority over safety

Monday 11 January 2021

EXPRESS OPINION: Minister's resignation is about authority over safety


Senator Vallois’s decision to resign as Education Minister is already being weaponised by some, who, under the aegis of “being clear”, are positioning it as her statement that the schools aren’t safe to re-open.

That is an over-simplification, wrapped in a deliberate misunderstanding, inside an exaggeration.

In reality, the issue is this.

Firstly, Senator Vallois doesn’t believe that within the current Government, her views as Education Minister are being listened to.

In that sense, it is a decision about power, and where that lies in the current system. That’s why she begins her letter, which you can read in full HERE, by talking about the authority of the Education Minister, and why she describes a “fight” to be listened to which has been “dismissed.”

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Pictured: Senator Vallois tendered her resignation as Education Minister last night.

She directly challenges the views of medics to make educational decisions – a thought which may well have been echoed by many parents this morning, who sent their children off to school dressed as if they were going on a Duke of Edinburgh expedition, mindful of the weekend warning from schools that ‘well-ventilated’ classrooms in January would be “very cold.” Before the keyboard warriors start creating the first “snow-flakes” of the New Year, perhaps they would like to concentrate fully for a two-hour ‘mock’ exam, while effectively sitting completely still, outside?

So, the primary reason for her resignation is about authority – she feels that major decisions relating to education (like whether schools can open or not) at a time of national crisis, do not rest with the relevant Minister; with that view, there is only one honourable course open. 

Secondly, her letter is clear that she thinks the Government’s current approach is disruptive. Here, she references what she terms “last-minute” decision-making and its effect on families. 

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Pictured: Senator Vallois's resignation is the fourth from the Ministerial ranks, following Senators Mézec and Pallett, and Deputy Tadier. 

You only have to think back to December, with various groups of children being sent home to isolate, sometimes repeatedly, to understand this point, and the effect that had on parents' abilities to plan their working lives. 

Of course, this is very difficult ground, with cogent arguments to be made on both sides, and judgement being all that separates them – but the point to be made here, is that “disruptive” is very different from “unsafe” – a word that is entirely missing from Senator Vallois’s letter. 

At this time of heightened sensitivity, perhaps the real point is this: leadership is about behaviour, not position. It is something we can all choose to show. The former Education Minister’s decision reflects this – she perceived that her position, as ostensibly the person in charge of education in Jersey, was actually a hollow one; so she chose to act accordingly. For another day, that should provoke debate about our new ‘Executive Presidential’ system and its centralisation of power.

But, for today, we should at least properly read her motives – and whether we agree with her conclusion or not, take the time to understand what lay behind it, and to resist being dragged into the vociferous margins of this critical debate.

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