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"Just the tip of a funding crisis"

Thursday 28 October 2021

"Just the tip of a funding crisis"


The Haute Vallée’s Governors’ impassioned presentation to the Education Scrutiny Panel is just the tip of a funding crisis in education that is threatening to consume the whole department.

It is well documented that funding for education in Jersey is one of the lowest in the world, so it is no surprise that two well respected businessmen and pillars of the island community feel the need to blow the whistle. Desperate times call for desperate measures.

In their capacity as governors at Haute Valleé, they asked the head teacher to carry out a funding review. It was revealed that, after accounting for utilities and staff wages, there was no money left in the pot for the basics, things like pencils and paper.

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Pictured: "The Haute Vallée’s Governors’ impassioned presentation to the Education Scrutiny Panel is just the tip of a funding crisis in education that is threatening to consume the whole department."

They stated that the teachers even have to recycle paper to make ends meet.  At an arranged meeting with meeting with Sean O’Regan, the Director of Education and the Education Minister they were told that there was a £23 million shortfall in the education budget.

But what a different tone set by the Education Minister, Deputy Scott Wickenden in that same meeting. His disparaging remark that ‘the pot is the pot’ sets him apart from all his predecessors, all of whom have pushed for better funding. His response shows his total disregard for the children of Jersey and for those within education who have moved mountains even before the pandemic came to our shores. 

A survey carried out by the Bailiwick Express has shown the parlous state most sections of business, both private and States, are in. Whilst on the surface education is not ‘officially’ as badly off as some, its staffing figures are masked by the excessive use of trainee teachers, unqualified teachers and supply staff.

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Pictured: "One way to release capitol is to cut staffing costs but as Mr Le Claire pointed out, this means compromising the Arts across the school. They have already pared subjects like French and others."

Such reliance is not conducive to a quality education provision. And the situation is worsening. One way to release capitol is to cut staffing costs but as Mr Le Claire pointed out, this means compromising the Arts across the school. They have already pared subjects like French and others. 

The dilemma Haute Valleé finds itself in has shone a light on Jersey’s two-tier education system. Phil Le Claire points to the £2000plus differential per child per annum between those taught in exclusively States schools and those in the State-sponsored and private schools. Beaulieu recently received £1.5 million from the Fiscal Stimulus Fund to facilitate the building of a new sports complex.

Whilst the money has not come directly from the education budget, it is an example of how the present Council of Ministers can always find money to fund the private education sector, whilst continuing to starve States schools of vital capital. It is morally reprehensible.  Even money allocated for those most in need, the pupil premium, sees the private sector get a more favourable slice of the pie. Per capita, JCG gets almost £100 per pupil more than those at Haute Valleé.

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CLICK TO ENGLARGE: The full chart of school budgets and spending from 2016 - 2020.

The simple difference between private education and States education is one of resource. Level that playing field and the whole dynamic changes. The question for those with political aspirations is, how do you achieve this? 

As expected the government’s response is all about numbers.  The big figure of £35 million quoted, is not just for education but for ‘all families and children’. If this money is already being pumped in, where is it going? Not where it is needed, in the classroom, that’s for sure. All State Secondary schools had eye-watering deficits in 2020.  

They promise £11.6 million rolled over 3 years ending in 2024. That is less than half the £23 million deficit highlighted by the Director of education.  Readers, how many times have we been here?  All the money promised is still only on a ‘draft’ island plan.

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Pictured: "One Year 11 girl at Haute Valleé stands out from the crowd and tells it like it is, demanding that these banners be removed. I think the rest of the schools should follow her lead. Maybe then the government would get the message."

It has not even been rubber stamped yet. The two school governors were promised £70k  eighteen months ago.  They are still waiting. And what of the £1.3 million allocated back in December 2020 for pupil ‘catch-up’ following lockdown. Only part of that has been released? The children at Haute Valleé need pencils and paper now, not in twelve months time! And if money is allocated to education, who’s to know where it will end up. 

The slogan ‘putting children first’ has repeatedly been found to be wanting. Teachers unions say it is not happening, school governors say it is not happening and now pupils say it is not happening. Even the Children’s Commissioner has questioned the efficacy of the claim.

Deputy Wickenden will forever be haunted by his “what should we do, stop digging up the roads?” remark. It reveals his, and the majority of this government’s, disdain for the pledge. The answer, sir, is yes, if you are serious about putting children first! The Chief Minister and his Council of Ministers should stop pretending and admit that they have failed to deliver the pledge.

One Year 11 girl at Haute Valleé stands out from the crowd and tells it like it is, demanding that these banners be removed. I think the rest of the schools should follow her lead. Maybe then the government would get the message.

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FOCUS: Governors lay bare £23m schools funding crisis

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