States urged to ‘put children first’, not hide behind slogan

STATES Members have overwhelmingly backed the expansion of Rouge Bouillon Primary School onto the site of the former police headquarters.

Deputy Inna Gardiner said Rouge Bouillon School needed more space for 'wonderful children and fantastic staff'
Deputy Inna Gardiner said Rouge Bouillon School needed more space for 'wonderful children and fantastic staff'

The Assembly supported a proposition by St Helier Deputy Inna Gardiner that the adjacent site, formerly occupied by States of Jersey Police, should be allocated for an enlarged school – unless an alternative location is identified.

Deputy Gardiner’s proposition, supported by 39 votes to six, also stipulated that no government-owned sites in St Helier or St Saviour that could be suitable for a new school should be allocated to any other purpose while a strategic review into education was ongoing.

The school had been in need of renovation for around 30 years, Deputy Gardiner said, but proposed initiatives had been repeatedly postponed.

She said: ‘Rouge Bouillon has fantastic staff and wonderful pupils, but the children who are most in need of space go to a school where there are no fields or green space.’

Deputy Gardiner challenged States Members to show a genuine commitment to putting children first, rather than ‘just hiding behind the slogan’.

Children’s and Education Minister Scott Wickenden said the current review was close to being completed and would look at both the provision of schools and aligning this to the catchment areas.

The various competing demands for sites in St Helier were mentioned as a challenge by several Members, with Infrastructure Minister Kevin Lewis describing the Island’s capital as ‘a giant Rubik’s Cube where you have to move things round in order to fit things in’.

Deputy Jeremy Maçon, a former Education Minister, said that during his time in government the Justice and Home Affairs Department had been seeking to progress plans to use the former Police HQ site for expanded facilities for the Fire and Ambulance Services.

Deputy Mike Higgins criticised the ‘lack of joined-up thinking’ regarding the future of St Helier.

‘The town is being crammed full of people but where are the green spaces and school sites?’ he asked, adding: ‘We can’t keep going on like this.’

Home Affairs Minister Gregory Guida said he was happy to wait until the education review was complete, but warned that if a new site was required for the Fire Service this could take at least seven – and possibly as long as nine – years.

Deputy Guida said he doubted whether it would be possible to gain planning approval for any alternative bases for Fire and Ambulance, if they were to move away from Rouge Bouillon.

The importance of taking positive action to benefit children was stressed by Deputy Rob Ward, who said: ‘Every single day, every month and every year that we don’t do anything for young people in St Helier in the formative stages of their education, where futures are shaped, children will continue to have a second- or third-class education.’

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