Video: ‘Ministers not delivering on children first pledge’

SCHOOL governors have handed back a poster promoting the ‘putting children first’ initiative because they say they have lost faith in the government to deliver on their pledge.

Picture: Government of Jersey (31920891)
Picture: Government of Jersey (31920891)

The poster was handed to politicians at a Children, Education and Home Affairs Scrutiny Panel hearing yesterday on behalf of the students of Haute Vallée School.

The governors said that the government desperately needed to address an annual £23m shortfall in the school’s budget.

Philip Le Claire, chairman of the school’s board of governors, said a Year 11 pupil had asked head teacher Stuart Hughes if the poster could be taken down, saying she did not believe that politicians in Jersey were putting children first.

Handing the poster to panel chairman Deputy Rob Ward, Mr Le Claire said: ‘On behalf of all the children at Haute Vallée we’d like to give this [poster] back because we don’t think that it’s appropriate that it’s up on our walls because we don’t think you are putting children first.’

Mr Le Claire said he had been seeking a meeting with the Education Department for months to express his concerns about school funding and the unsustainable workload on teaching staff.

He said he had received no reply to a letter sent on 17 May to Chief Minister John Le Fondré, who was acting Education Minister at the time, or to subsequent emails to Deputy Scott Wickenden following his election as Education Minister on 19 May.

When a meeting took place with Deputy Wickenden and group director for education Seàn O’Regan on 22 September, Mr Le Claire said concerns had been expressed that the head teacher had no choice but to exceed his budget to pay for resources that should be considered the ‘very basics’.

Mr Le Claire added that, despite these challenges, the school under Mr Hughes had gone through a remarkable transformation, with significantly improved results and the introduction of a much more positive and purposeful culture.

Mr Le Claire said Deputy Wickenden had told him that a £23 million shortfall in budget allocation could not be filled by government and asked whether the school felt the government should stop digging the roads up.

He said: ‘If there is a shortage then, yes, they should stop digging the roads up, because the Government of Jersey have said they are going to put children first, so they either need to do that, or change their slogan to putting roads first.’

Mr Le Claire was accompanied at the hearing by Phil Horsley, his predecessor as chairman and a member of the board’s behavioural committee, who said the board of governors was ‘fully supportive’ of the return of the poster.

The board was concerned about the pressure being faced by teachers, Mr Le Claire said.

He added: ‘Teachers must be on the verge of burnout because they can’t cope with the levels of stress and pressure they are being put under on a day-to-day basis to deliver the top rate of education they are giving.

‘We hear about the skills shortage and we are training up kids to fill that gap, or are we just abandoning them because we can’t afford to give them an appropriate education?’w

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