With the plans for the future of secondary education now unlikely to be debated by the States before September at the earliest, the spotlight is shining ever brightly on Education, Sport and Culture, with more concerns being raised about senior appointments, the use of consultants and the merger of higher education facilities and other areas.
Deputy Andrea Dudley-Owen – herself a member of the former ESC board which resigned en masse when their plans for a three-school secondary model were rejected by the States – has positioned herself as scrutineer by doing her own research into areas she feels haven’t been satisfactorily explained publicly.
She had tabled a series of Rule 14 Questions regarding a recent appointment, querying why the newly created role of Head of Curriculum and Standards went to an off-island applicant, when she believed there were suitably qualified people already working in the island, with experience of the Bailiwick’s own curriculum.
Despite a delay in responding, ESC has given some answers (available at gov.gg) to Deputy Dudley-Owen’s questions, but she is adamant that her concerns haven’t been addressed. She says that is a common problem with the current ESC board.
“The responses to my latest set of questions as ever do not give straight answers. This is to be expected as this is how the Committee habitually respond to any scrutiny or challenge.
“The purpose of the rules allowing us to ask questions of our colleagues is to enlighten us and provide clarity. Yet again it is disappointing as their answers continue to obfuscate the issues, leaving us in the dark and confused.”
The wider plans for the one site/two school model of secondary education will undoubtedly come under scrutiny when they are released ahead of being debated by the States, with the costings and other details still unknown. While ESC had previously said its policy letter would be debated before the States summer recess, that is now impossible. Although ESC has said its policy letter will be released before the end of June, it would require a change in the rules to have the States debate it in July – and any such move would mean a vast reduction in the time allowed for States members and the public to read, digest and challenge the information given.
Deputy Dudley-Owen said that delay is unacceptable and proves the so called ‘two-school model’ doesn’t stand up to scrutiny and will prove to be unworkable.
“It is obvious that the Committee is not making the progress that they said they would and have missed their own deadlines,” she said. “I don’t think that they have been thoughtful, fair or strategic in their approach and if they applied these principles to their project of two schools within one, they would realise their plan does not stand up.”
If the policy letter is released by the end of June, the earliest it could be debated will be during the States meeting scheduled to start on September 4. In the meantime, Deputy Dudley-Owen says she intends to continue monitoring the work of ESC and raising issues she finds concern with.
“I have been very unsatisfied with the responses that I have received to date to my various sets of questions over the period. They consistently demonstrate that a blatant disregard is being applied to good governance by the Committee and this is of huge concern to me.”
Acknowledging she may herself face criticism for questioning ESC, when her own work on the committee previously was rejected by the States, Deputy Dudley-Owen says that experience means she is actually in a strong position as scrutineer.
“It is becoming increasingly apparent that due process is being ignored by the Committee in many important areas, especially around key appointments in education. Some people may think that process is a hindrance and can slow progress, but it matters when we are talking about government policy, where tax payers money is being spent and in an area of such acute importance to the community such as education - things must be done properly. Due process allows the Committee to stand up to scrutiny and challenge – to demonstrate that they have been thoughtful, fair and strategic in their approach.”
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