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"No guarantees" over job security for La Mare de Carteret High staff

Thursday 27 May 2021

"No guarantees" over job security for La Mare de Carteret High staff

Education's impending policy letter on the future of secondary education will leave a lot of detailed questions unanswered, it appears, including what the future holds for staff at La Mare de Carteret High School.

Ahead of the first of two public presentations of her committee's proposals last night, Deputy Andrea Dudley-Owen faced questions from States Members in the Assembly.

It followed a private presentation of Education's secondary schools plans to Deputies on Tuesday. In a question time extended by the Bailiff due to how many there were, the Education President faced scrutiny for an implied lack of finer details in the committee's policy letter.

It is due to be published tomorrow and will feature three 11-16 schools at Les Beaucamps, St Sampson's and Les Varendes, with a single sixth form centre co-located with the Guernsey Institute at Les Ozouets. 

It will mean the closure of La Mare de Carteret High. A lack of assurances over transition arrangements was criticised in the States. 

"The teachers are concerned for their jobs," Deputy David de Lisle, a retired teacher, observed. "Will the president be guaranteeing the jobs [affected by] any rationalisation in the teaching staff force?"

Deputy Andrea Dudley-Owen

Pictured: Deputy Dudley-Owen told the States that her committee's policy letter "is not the right place for that kind of detailed planning [around transition arrangements for LMDC staff] to be set out. It is an iterative process over the next weeks and months as we support that school to weather the changes."

Deputy Dudley-Owen has insisted in the last week that P&R - which has all of the States' centralised HR functions under its remit - is responsible for employment matters. She told the Assembly that Education "needs all of our teachers", but would not take ownership of any consequences on people's jobs. 

"I can’t give any guarantees about any jobs because as P&R is the responsible committee, as the employer of the States, but I can say that this committee does not want to lose people.

"We need all of our teachers and we want to support them. We still have the same number of children to teach and it is understandable that people feel uncomfortable by the uncertainty that has been long-perpetuated by this Assembly in successive terms."

These comments were challenged by Deputy Gavin St Pier, who headed up P&R last term.

"There is of course no statutory provision for P&R acting in that role. Can the president confirm that her committee, acting by and through the DIrector of Education under the Education Law, are responsible for hiring and firing Education staff and how many staff are appropriate under their cash limits?"

Deputy Dudley-Owen replied: "Absolutely. Deputy St Pier Is highlighting the issues that the Director of Education would be looking to determine the workforce under the appropriate budgeting, but we have human resources that come under the Policy & Resources Committee that Deputy St Pier will well know about.

"The split is complicated but the split is actually there. The Policy & Resources are mandated to look after this particular area in terms of the eventual responsibility for employee relations."

Grammar School YES La Mare De Carteret NO

Pictured: Les Varendes has been chosen by Education as the site for the third comprehensive 11-16 school over La Mare de Carteret, as it will cost around £30m less to redevelop than it would cost to rebuild LMDC. 

Responding to questions from Deputy Marc Leadbeater - who served alongside Deputy Dudley-Owen in the original 2016 Education, Sport & Culture Committee - the leader of last year's 'pause and review' requete said the closure of LMDC was undeniably linked to the island's financial crisis. 

"I have been very open-minded which is one of the reasons why the pause and review requete was such a blunt and unsophisticated instrument," said Deputy Dudley-Owen. "I was absolutely sincere in not having a preferred model to take forward at the time. 

"The La Mare de Carteret rebuild was always in my sights as a possibility. I think actually that Deputy Leadbeater is correct that the two lockdowns and the pandemic has played a significant part in my decision-making around not taking that forward as a preferred model. It was not until recently that I made that decision."

She said that losing schools is never an option that she wanted to be faced with. "The harsh reality is that the decision to remove selection from the education system, we have to consolidate our school estate.

"We also have a declining pupil population, pressing financial need, and we also know that a school is much more than the fabric of the building and the quality of the school lies with the quality of staff with La Mare de Carteret, which is absolutely excellent."

No schedule has yet been announced for further public presentations following the release of her committee's policy letter tomorrow. The first presentation held at Les Beaucamps was attended by around 40 people, with an extra 300 or so dialling in to the online stream, which can be watched below:

A second presentation is taking place tonight at the Grammar School main hall, from 18:00 to 20:00. That presentation will not be live streamed by the States. 

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