Union welcomes funding for schools and young people

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GOVERNMENT plans to prioritise education projects have been welcomed by a leading teaching union, after a spokesperson claimed Island schools were ‘overcrowded and under-resourced’.

The proposed Government Plan, which was published this week, features £16.5 million in additional funding through 2023 for schools and young people. The plan is set to be debated in December.

Among the initiatives highlighted in the plan is a £200,000 investment in a ‘cooling system’ at Les Quennevais School. Students at the £40m school – which opened in September 2020 – were sent home multiple times this summer amid stifling temperatures, while on other occasions pupils were told to wear PE kit instead of uniform because of air-conditioning problems.

Marina Mauger of the NASUWT said teachers at Les Quennevais had struggled during the summer term.

She said: ‘It has been unbearable for teachers and pupils and they will be glad to see the end of it – let’s hope they install an effective system.

‘No one wants to send children home, but there was no alternative – you can’t expect teachers and pupils to work in that heat.’

Following inquiries from the JEP earlier this summer, the government confirmed that air conditioning had not formed part of the original design for the school, which was described as functioning ‘within technical design parameters’. This meant that it would be the government, not the contractor, which would need to underwrite the cost of remedial work.

Children’s and Education Minister Inna Gardiner said that two phases of work at Les Quennevais were now complete, with additional funding proposed in order to ensure a third and final phase was finished prior to summer 2023.

The government has also pledged to move forward with plans to develop a new primary school in St Helier, something Mrs Mauger said was desperately needed.

She added: ‘The schools we have are overcrowded and under-resourced, and the more the government speaks about building new social housing in St Helier, the more we will need a new primary school, and to identify the right site before continuing the housing projects.’

Deputy Gardiner said she was in the process of finalising the school-estate review that was initiated as one of the priorities for her first 100 days in office, and that this would be published by 19 October.

‘The review will look at many different aspects: catchment areas, access to schools – including walking distances, and will identify how many school places are required so that we have a clear way forward,’ she said.

The States backed plans for a new town primary school on the former Jersey Gas site earlier this year, following a successful amendment to the Bridging Island Plan brought by Deputy Rob Ward.

Other projects described as priorities within the Government Plan include:

– An expansion of Mont à L’Abbé School.

– A new Digital Centre of Excellence.

– The replacement of Victoria College Preparatory School.

– Improved sports facilities at Le Rocquier.

Mrs Mauger added that while she was pleased that the new government appreciated the need to invest in health and education, she remained ‘deeply concerned’ about the challenge of attracting qualified staff to the Island.

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