The Committee for Education, Sport & Culture may face urgent questions in the States next week after announcing that its flagship reorganisation of secondary and further education is now at “significant risk” of not being fully in place until after the next general election.
Some deputies are particularly concerned about the possibility of further delay to the redevelopment of the College of Further Education – now The Guernsey Institute – at Les Ozouets.
They also want more detail about whether the whole reorganisation – to create three 11-16 schools at Les Beaucamps, Les Varendes and St. Sampson’s and two separate post-16 organisations at Les Ozouets – could fall more than a year behind schedule and what the effects might be on building and running costs.
Earlier this week, the Committee insisted it was not yet giving up hope of its new model of education being fully in place by September 2024 ahead of the general election in June 2025. But it also said that “external challenges with construction sector capacity and supply chains represent a real risk to the timeline”.
This was met with strong criticism from construction industry representative bodies, which said they had not been approached by the Committee but were confident the industry could deliver to the Committee’s requirements if they were set out clearly.
Deputy Lester Queripel quickly submitted Rule 14 questions asking the Committee about its communication with the construction industry. Committees must answer Rule 14 questions in writing within 15 days of receiving them.
Yesterday Express asked the Committee if it could provide reassurance that any delay would be limited to one year only - from 2024 to 2025 - but was told the Committee did not wish to speculate on factors outside its control.
Pictured: Deputy Tina Bury is asking the Committee for Education, Sport & Culture to provide more information about the possible effects on The Guernsey Institute and costs if its reorganisation of secondary and further education is delayed.
Deputy Tina Bury said the Committee’s announcement about potential delays was unclear on several key points.
“It is understandable that there are factors at play outside of the Committee’s control. However, at least some of these were well known months ago when the [States’] debate took place and yet weren’t addressed by the Committee during that process despite questions being asked,” said Deputy Bury.
“The recent update from the Committee leaves some key questions unanswered, such as what this means for The Guernsey Institute’s well overdue estate upgrade. As it is now inextricably linked to the secondary reform plans, it will no doubt be impacted by any delay, as well as what this means for the overall cost of the reform project.”
The Committee’s announcement about the risk of delay was published a few hours after the deadline for deputies to submit regular questions to Committees at the next States’ meeting which starts on Wednesday. Deputy Gavin St. Pier is now considering asking the permission of the States’ Presiding Officer, Bailiff Richard McMahon, to use rules which allow urgent questions to be put to Committees if new information arises after the deadline for regular questions.
“It’s not immediately obvious to me why this media release was sent out. On the face of it, it seems to add little to the responses that Deputy Dudley-Owen gave to questions on the topic after her Statement to the Assembly in October,” said Deputy St. Pier.
“However, I am thinking about lodging an ‘emergency question' under Rule 12. If there are to be delays, there are some concerns that naturally spring to mind in terms of the impact on costs and the already much-delayed Guernsey Institute project.”
Pictured: Deputy Bob Murray, Vice-President of the Committee for Education, Sport & Culture, said the Committee is working hard to avoid delays to its reorganisation of secondary and further education.
Deputy Bob Murray, Vice-President of the Committee, said the Committee’s announcement earlier this week was motivated by a wish to be honest and reassuring.
"We wanted to be honest about the potential risk to the timeline for delivery, but also reassure that at this stage we remain determined to do everything possible to achieve that September 2024 date,” said Deputy Murray.
“The Committee has sought to keep stakeholders and the wider community updated on the implementation of the new model for secondary and post-16 education.
“Through discussions with the construction industry, it is clear to the programme team that challenges around capacity and materials supply exist.
“However, I repeat that we continue to work towards the original timeline and as such it would be premature to speculate about contingency plans, which are of course being worked up as part of our good forward planning.”
Deputy Peter Roffey said he hoped his worst fears were not coming true.
“I always thought that forcing The Guernsey Institute buildings to share the Les Ozouets site with a new, experimental, micro-sixth form centre could pose challenges which might put back the whole project,” said Deputy Roffey.
Pictured: In September, the States backed the Committee's proposals, which include moving the Sixth Form Centre (left) from Les Varendes to Les Ozouets to co-locate it with a redeveloped Guernsey Institute, which is the successor to the College of Further Education (right).
He shared his colleagues’ concerns about the potential effects of further delay on The Guernsey Institute.
"The thing which concerns me most about the news that the plans for Guernsey’s new educational estate could be delayed is the thought the development of the new Guernsey Institute could be put back yet again," said Deputy Roffey.
“This is a project which is massively overdue with further education in Guernsey being delivered in what outside experts have described as some of the worst facilities they have ever seen.
“In particular, the buildings used by the former College of Further Education element of The Guernsey Institute are, in some cases, quite shameful. There is also a pressing need to move the Institute of Health Studies element to facilitate the redevelopment of the Princess Elizabeth Hospital.”
Pictured: Deputy Peter Roffey said that if the Committee's plans are materially delayed "there may need to be a rapid reappraisal of the best way forward".
Deputy Roffey called for greater clarity about the challenges now facing the Committee’s reorganisation plans.
“What would be very useful now is absolute clarity over how long a delay the whole project potentially faces. This should include the absolute worst-case scenario.
“While I am no fan of flip-flopping, if the facts concerning deliverability have indeed changed significantly then there may need to be a rapid reappraisal of the best way forward. Both to create certainty for the whole secondary and further education sector and to ensure the shameful delays over providing modern facilities for the former College of Further Education are brought to an end as rapidly as possible.”
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