RECRUITMENT and retention challenges across the Island’s schools have been described as an ‘absolute crisis’ by a leading union official.
Marina Mauger, of the NASUWT, said she was ‘more worried than ever’ about the situation and concerned that there was limited scope to solve the problem before term started in a month’s time.
Schools are facing the prospect of opening their doors with numerous unfilled positions when the new academic year begins, with Children’s and Education Minister Inna Gardiner confirming there were currently 72 vacancies.
Deputy Gardiner summarised the latest position, which included 35 teaching vacancies and 37 teaching assistant positions, in a letter to the Children, Education and Home Affairs Scrutiny Panel.
Mrs Mauger said: ‘It’s a disgrace and we are in absolute crisis. I have spoken to three secondary-school teachers over the summer who have told me they are leaving because they can’t afford to live here.
‘We can’t recruit and we can’t retain, and unless the government does something to attract teachers, then the situation will only get worse.’
Mrs Mauger said that she was worried that arrangements for teaching young Islanders would not be adequate when they returned to their schools after the summer holiday.
‘Who is going to teach them?’ she asked. ‘Class sizes are already large, with classes of 28 to 30 in some primary schools.
‘We could end up having to merge classes, or use teaching assistants, but there aren’t enough teaching assistants either and the work that was in progress before Covid to help them to upskill hasn’t picked up.’
In her letter to Scrutiny panel chair Deputy Catherine Curtis, Deputy Gardiner said interviews were ongoing, and it was anticipated that the number of vacancies would fall during August.
The newly elected minister also listed her priorities for the first six months of her tenure, with the first stated topic being to commence the development of a workforce strategy.
Deputy Gardiner said the strategy would ‘provide us with workforce analysis and projection of future need based on workforce demographic, turnover and recruitment plans’.
Union officials took part in what Mrs Mauger described as a ‘positive’ meeting with Deputy Gardiner soon after her election.
Mrs Mauger said: ‘The minister is definitely on board, knows where we have got problems and is committed to trying to resolve them, but you can’t just produce 35 teachers within a month.’
The challenges in recruiting staff in the education sector resulted from a combination of factors, Mrs Mauger added, including the cost of living, the high prices required to buy or rent property in Jersey and the fact that teaching colleges in the UK were operating at below their full capacity.
‘Teaching is the lowest-paid graduate profession, the hours are long and people can’t afford to live in Jersey – it’s cheaper in London,’ she said.