Monday 27 April 2015
- The only way to ensure that we build the right school for our community's long-term needs is to ensure that it fits into the island's long-term plans for post-16 education and the structure of secondary education in Guernsey. This includes the number of schools, their sizes and locations.
- The Education Department said in 2013 that it would bring these long-term plans to the States Assembly during 2013 and 2014. That has not happened yet, but should still be done before works start on a new schools project.
- To attempt to decide what the right building is before agreeing those plans, or to decide on a potential £60 million investment before we know what the long-term policy is, could put two things at risk - the best educational outcomes for our children and value-for-money for taxpayers.
- The Treasury & Resources Department is not asking the States Assembly to choose between educational outcomes and value-for-money. It is asking it to choose both.
Treasury & Resources agrees with the Education Department that the La Mare De Carteret schools need rebuilding. But Treasury & Resources also thinks that given this is a £60 million project (and part of a potential £110 million Education Department rebuilding plan, including the College of Further Education) it is important to ensure that the correct project is delivered - primarily, of course, to provide the best possible educational outcomes but also to deliver best value for taxpayers.
The only way to ensure that the right school is built that meets our community's - our children's - long-term needs is to ensure that what is built fits into the island's long-term plans for post-16 education and the structure of secondary education in Guernsey, including the number of schools, their sizes and location. That means having a policy in place as the basis of making a decision on the investment needed. It is common sense for the policy and plans to be agreed before works start on a new schools project - otherwise it is impossible to make a £60 million decision on La Mare De Carteret with any degree of certainty that the new building will fit into and deliver those plans.
To try to decide what the right building is before those plans are in place could put two things in jeopardy - the best educational outcomes for our children, and value-for-money for taxpayers. We cannot ignore the fact that we currently have 18% (469 places) overcapacity in our secondary system and logically the right time to decide how best to respond to this is before, not after, a decision on La Mare De Carteret.
It is right for pupils, parents and teachers to be concerned at any further delay. Treasury & Resources understands that concern. But any further delay should be minimal. Education's vision, Today's Learners, Tomorrow's World, envisaged States Reports on "a new structure for post-16 education during 2013" and "a new structure for secondary education" during 2014. These will inform the decision making process. The Education Minister informed the States at its June 2014 sitting that work had started on the work leading to the secondary education report. That being the case, the additional delay, if any, should be minimal.
Pupils, parents and teachers should be more concerned about the prospect for greater upheaval - building a school then having to add to it later - because it is not fit for purpose for our community in the long-term.
All taxpayers should be concerned that Education could be asking for £110 million to rebuild La Mare De Carteret and then potentially the College of Further Education, without having first clearly articulated and obtained agreement from the States as to its long-term plans for the future of secondary and tertiary education on-island. Taxpayers should also be concerned at the independent review panel's conclusion that proceeding with the project at La Mare "without significant future increase in school population or rationalisation would, in our view, perpetuate uneconomic provision."
So the States Assembly is not being asked whether or not a new school should be built. Treasury & Resources and Education agree that it should be. Neither is the States Assembly being asked if it is right for pupils to be schooled, in Education's words, "in sub-standard facilities." Treasury & Resources and Education agree that they should not be. That is why Education annually requests a routine capital allocation in order to maintain and repair the buildings in its estate; and that is why Treasury & Resources agrees recommendations for an allocation through the Budget process. Education has underspent its routine capital budget by £550,000 in 2014, £705,000 in 2013, £895,000 in 2012 and £657,000 in 2011, but it has approximately £0.7m of funding available in 2015 for its estate (excluding Les Beaucamps High School which has a separate funding stream.) So there is no reason why pupils should be in sub-standard facilities while the new school is built. Treasury and Resources will, of course, consider any requests from Education for any additional funding, should this be necessary.
The States Assembly is being asked by Education if it is prepared to sanction £60 million for the rebuild of the La Mare de Carteret without a clear view from Education on what the future of the island's education system will be, which from Education's vision, Today's Learners, Tomorrow's World, the States was expecting to have had the opportunity to consider and debate during 2013 and 2014.
The States Assembly is not being asked to choose between educational outcomes and value-for-money by Treasury & Resources. It is being asked by Treasury & Resources to choose both - and to do so decisively in order to keep any further delay to a minimum.
The Education Department has the opportunity to take a path that supports educational outcomes and gives islanders' value for money. Decisions in the past have not helped this Education Board. But getting the decision right this time could mean less upheaval for pupils in the future, and savings of £160 million over the lifetime of the rebuilt school. That is £5,000 per tax payer.
Our colleagues in Education have rightly called for transparency and openness in this debate. So for that reason, we have asked Dr Chris Nicholls from the independent review panel to return to Guernsey in order to meet with interested parties such as PTAs, head teachers, and those Deputies who were unable to attend the briefings on 20 March, and to set out clearly the independent review panel's recommendations, the rationale behind the recommendations, and to answer any questions. Treasury & Resources also remain willing to meet any parties who wish to do so.
The point has been made above, but it is so important that it should be re-stated in conclusion:
The States Assembly is not being asked to choose between educational outcomes and value-for-money. Treasury & Resources is asking it to choose both - and to do so decisively in order to keep any further delay to a minimum, and to build the right school for the future as well as for today.
Deputy Gavin St Pier
Deputy Jan Kuttelwascher
Deputy Tony Spruce
Deputy Roger Perrot
Deputy Hunter Adam