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OPINION: "Herm's worst fears came to pass"

OPINION:

Tuesday 29 August 2023

OPINION: "Herm's worst fears came to pass"

Tuesday 29 August 2023


The Chairman of Herm Island Limited has written to all deputies seeking support for a requete which'll force debate on the closure of the island's only school.

John Singer has called Education's decision to trial a closure a "calamity". You can read the letter in full below:

Dear Deputies of the States of Guernsey,

Herm’s worst fears came to pass with ESC’s decision to close Herm’s primary school.  Without the school, no potential employees with young children will consider employment on Herm. 

Furthermore, four Herm families presently have a total of 5 young children aged 2 or below, where the husband performs the following senior roles and their partners perform part time roles: 

  • Chief Engineer/Assistant Technical Services Manager,       
  • Plumber,
  • Head gardener,
  • Mermaid Head Chef.      

None of these parents have been consulted by ESC.

These families have chosen to live and work on Herm and for their child to be educated on Herm.  Why should they be denied that right? 

All have indicated they will resign and leave Herm before their child reaches school age, unless ESC’s decision is reversed. 

Also, in addition, two other young mothers are understood to also be pregnant.  

I foresee the number of pupils continuing to fluctuate over the years and the present dip in numbers to be a temporary situation.

It is claimed that the closure will be for a trial period.  However, there are presently no children at all on Herm aged between 4 and 8.  Hence, it is virtually a foregone conclusion that the trial will, in a year’s time, be deemed to have proven the case for closure.  Without including younger children, no trial can be realistic.

I believe it to be totally unrealistic to expect any parent to send a 4 year old child on a ferry at 8am and await their return, on the only further ferry each winter day, at around 4pm.  Stormy conditions for many weeks each year are the norm and some journeys in winter will not be in daylight.  There will be no opportunity for the parent to visit their child, eg if sick during the day, or possibly, in extreme circumstances, not at all for a day or three if unexpected sea conditions arise during the day.

I dispute ESC’s assertion that the education received by pupils of Herm’s primary school is inferior to that received in larger schools in more urban environments.  Anyone witnessing the ‘final’ Herm school concert this summer could not have failed to have marvelled at the confidence and oracy skills of the 4 young pupils presentation of Romeo & Juliet on the small stage.  Achievements of many of the past pupils of the school also speak volumes for the benefit of small school classes.

If Herm’s School does close, I believe the only responsible decision for a parent of a 4 year old to take will be to leave Herm.  Home schooling has been mooted but both parents often work on Herm and none would consider themselves competent teachers.

I regard this decision as a calamity. It will kill Herm’s ability to recruit young families to fill senior positions. 

Unless the decision is reversed, this could be a mortal blow to continuation of the facilities offered by Herm to the residents of the Bailiwick and further afield.  The extension of the lease in 2017 to Herm Island Ltd was negotiated to secure future sustainability and in the full knowledge of both parties that the School plays a vital part.  That sustainability is already under severe threat from cost inflation giving rise to eye watering levels of losses. I will happily copy accounts to any Deputy interested to receive confirmation.

The closure of Herm’s School could be the final dagger through the heart of the Herm community.

Before closing, I would like to thank the Deputies who have either visited Herm to speak with parents or who have emailed their support.  An open invitation remains to any Deputy to meet and hear from the Herm staff directly affected and/or myself.  Please contact me if you wish to take up this offer.

Please support Deputy De Lisle’s Requete.

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