A concerned grandfather who has been closely following the efforts to transform secondary education is hoping next week's States meeting will see the island affirm its commitment to a one-school/two-colleges model.
Tim Langlois, who was previously the head of the Grammar School PTA but had been actively involved in the campaign to rid the island of the 11+ for 20 years, believes that selection is wrong and can never be justified from an educational perspective.
He, and others, are fearful that the efforts to amend the planned transformation programme could see a return to selection, and that is just one of the concerns Mr Langlois has with the requête due to be debated in a few days time.
Pictured: The meeting at the Les Varendes site (the current Grammar School) which Mr Langlois, and hundreds of other people attended.
"I attended the 'debate' at the Les Varendes site organised by parish Constables from St Andrews, Forest, St Martins and Torteval.
"On the panel were the three main requerants of the requête to be debated on February 26th, Deputies, Dudley-Own, Meerveld and Prow. The vast majority in the hall that night were supporters of the motion to request the CfESC to ‘pause and review’ the extant resolution of the States to implement a one school on two sites model of all ability education in Guernsey and Alderney. Of the 300 odd people present that night, only a handful were against the requête, so though questions were asked of the panel for about an hour and a half, there was never really a debate in the true sense of the word. The Committee for Education Sport & Culture had not been invited, so there was never going to be a BBC Question Time style encounter. The Very Rev. Tim Barker did a fine job as the independent chair.
"I watched the responses from the audience with some amazement because as the evening wore on, whenever the name of the Grammar School was mention in any way, there was clearly applause from the crowd and a sense that they wanted to see it retained in some form.
"Indeed one lady actually asked if an extra box could not be added to the bottom of the voting slip at the General Election, so that we could indicate a preference for keeping the Grammar School and therefore presumably some form of selection? Luckily Neil Inder was close at hand and disappointed the lady by saying that would not be possible without a change to the present Reform Law.
"The very first question was interesting. The panel were asked for a number. Exactly how many previously rejected models of education did the requerants want the CfESC to review? Unfortunately the questioner did not get a clear numerical answer. A little later in the evening Deputy Dudley-Owen said she did not have a preference for any particular model. She said she did not have a solution she could pull out of her back pocket that would solve the current dilemma, and the panel thought the whole review process would not take more that a year, but that surely depends on the number of models reviewed 2,5,10,15?
"The requerants don't know how many alternative models there are and certainly there does not seem to be any consensus among them as to their preferred model.
Pictured: Deputies Andrea Dudley-Owen, Rob Prow and Carl Meerveld are behind the requête which some fear could still lead to a return to selective secondary education.
"If each alternative model has to be worked up to a comparable standard to the 1 school 2 college one, then that will take a lot of time and a great deal of money.
"Also they either don't know or can't articulate what the consequences will be of their requête. That is why the CfESC were so keen to speak to them face to face, to explain the likely effects to them. The devastating repercussions for the students caught up in this political dog fight does not seem to be a consideration for the. requerants, and also the cost implications are huge. A delay of one year, but probably four or five, on a multi-million pound project like this will run into the millions, that is obvious.
"With the Dudley-Owen/Meerveld/Prow requête not only is the future of our secondary schools thrown into doubt, but also the much anticipated Guernsey Institute may well be threatened. This is the coming together of the College of Further Education, the Institute of Health & Social Care Studies and the Guernsey Training Agency University Centre.
"The requête states in part 1 '.....not to enter into any contractual obligations on behalf of the States or continue with any associated procurement processes for implementing of any elements of the 1 school on 2 sites plan as approved by the States on 6th September 2019.' In other words everything comes to a standstill.
"The question I wanted to ask followed on from what the Constable for St Andrews said in his opening remarks. He said his preferred model was the ‘3 school model’.
"My question would have been ‘What do the panel mean by the 3 school model exactly?' I didn’t ask it because I was enjoying myself too much and knew I wouldn’t get a straight answer anyway. The question of finding a workable alternative is absolutely critical, else we fall off a cliff. The problem is there is no stand out model that everyone can coalesce behind. Simply saying I prefer a 3 school model is pointless unless one describes the exact configuration and then you realise very quickly the difficulties.
Pictured: Former ESC President, Deputy Paul Le Pelley, is among those who have placed amendments to the requête.
"The previous CfESC under Paul Le Pelley had put forward their 3 school model in 2017 under the banner ‘Transforming Education’ and that involved rebuilding La Mare and combining Les Varendes and La Mare de Carteret students in that new 11-16 secondary school. Les Beaucamps High and St Sampsons High would remain as they were 11-16. Les Varendes site and the Sixth Form Centre would combine into a new post-16 College and there would also be a Training College at Les Ozouets. This model did not find much support and was defeated in January 2018 by the States in favour of the one school on two sites model, by a two thirds majority.
"Now, listening to the audience on Thursday I was struck by the ubiquitous surge in support to ‘Save the Grammar School’, but quite what form that would take I could only speculate, however this predilection has been reinforced by a clandestine survey ‘2 School vs 3 School’, that was sent out to Secondary School teachers just the day after. The survey was simplistic and stated ‘Out of the following choices, which would be your preferred model for secondary education?’
"The teachers were only told that ‘Following a meeting of senior deputies we need to know if staff would support an amendment for 3 X 11-16 schools with a co-located 6th form should it be laid?
"Very interestingly this survey had not been authorised by the headteachers of any of the secondary schools or by the NASUWT union, but it was being distributed by someone in a non-union capacity. As for the senior politicians involved one can only speculate? I’ll leave that conundrum to the rocket scientists amongst us.
"The survey was an obvious trap for any teacher naive enough, or frustrated with the CfESC enough, to fill it in. It was thankfully closed down shortly after it came to light.
"The 11-16 school with co-located 6th form, is clearly Les Varendes and the SFC. This is the configuration of schools so liked by the people in that sports hall on Thursday because it is the 3 school model that can most easily be reconverted to a Grammar School, if selection was ever to be voted back by the States in the next term. You would have 800 students at SSHS and LBHS (both 11-16) and 1300 at the Les Varendes (11-18) on current estimates. No rebuild of LMDCHS in this 3 school model, unfortunately.
"That is a quick summary of two alternative models, but there are others which might need to be reviewed if this requête is passed. A huge amount of costly work.
Pictured: Tim Langlois.
"The requerants don’t want to come out in favour of any one alternative model because they don’t want to split their support base, they just want to waste as much of the CfESC’s time as possible until the next General Election. The requête throws a size nine spanner in the works and all the requerants are waiting for is the smell of burnt grease and the crunch of cogwheels as the transition process grinds to a halt. This requête, in my view, is the most cynical and, at the same time, the most irresponsible political move I have ever witnessed.
"For the sake of the students of this island for generations to come, reject this nonsensical move by Deputies Dudley-Owen, Meerveld and Prow, and instead get onboard with what the CfESC are trying to achieve. It is truly the best and only way forward."
The above has been written by Tim Langlois and reflects his own personal views and not those of Express. If you wish to submit a comment piece for consideration please email firstname.lastname@example.org
Pictured top: Tim Langlois.
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