Deputy Rob Ward, who chairs the Children, Education and Home Affairs Scrutiny Panel, expressed his ‘disappointment’ at having to make a statement in the Assembly, with his panel currently reviewing the proposed Government Plan – which is set to be debated next month – in the hope of presenting a report to be considered before the 14 December sitting.
Deputy Ward told States Members ‘one of the key areas’ being assessed was funding for education and the education reform programme, with the latter intending ‘to make substantial changes to the operation of the education system over the next four years’. Two of the key aspects of this programme related to the development of a new school funding formula and of Special Educational Needs services for children and young people, he said.
After making an initial request on 13 October for a final ‘inclusion review report’ and details of the revised funding formula for schools, Deputy Ward said that ‘despite repeated requests’ to have this information shared with the panel – including during a public hearing earlier this month – the information had yet to be provided ‘over 30 days later’.
He added that the code of engagement between the government and Scrutiny panels said responses indicated there should be a five-day response time for requests for information. Deputy Ward said they had then received a response from Children’s and Education Minister Scott Wickenden that the inclusion review report would be taken to a Council of Ministers meeting on 30 November.
Asked by fellow scrutineer Constable Mike Jackson whether he considered responses from government ‘satisfactory’, Deputy Ward said that the panel had ‘serious concerns about the information we have been provided’.
Deputy Ward said: ‘The reason for making this statement today is that we as a panel need to highlight the difficult task, we have been presented with undertaking scrutiny of the Government Plan, especially the funding of education, which is one of the most important areas of investment within the Government Plan.’
And when asked by Deputy Louise Doublet what next stages could be taken if the information was not ‘forthcoming’, Deputy Ward said: ‘We hope that another step will not have to be taken.’ He said that ‘whether we can “subpoena” information’ was not a ‘road we want to do down’.
The Scrutiny chairman added that they had ‘not taken the decision to make this statement lightly’ but had ‘no further choice’.
Deputy Ward gave a deadline of the end of yesterday’s sitting to receive the information, but by the time the newspaper went to print it was not clear that this had been met.