Hi there. I’m Heidi Soulsby and I was re-elected a People’s Deputy for the South East at the 2016 General Election. I was first elected to the States of Deliberation in May 2012 and during my first term I served as Chair of the Public Accounts Committee, Deputy Minister of the Health and Services Department and Member of the Scrutiny Committee, Constitutional Investigation Committee and Commerce and Employment Department.
In May 2016 I was elected as President of the Committee for Health and Social Care, under the new machinery of government. I am also Vice Chair of the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association Guernsey Branch Executive Committee and Commonwealth Women Parliamentarians Guernsey representative.
The following blog comprises speeches, comments and thoughts I have had since I became a Deputy. These have been classified into different themes and you can choose those which interest you from the column on the left. The most recent appear on the Home Page.
On the last day of the last States meeting of the 21012-2016 term I presented the legacy report of the Public Accounts Committee. I have been proud and honoured to represent the Committee for 4 years and believe it is in a better place than at the start of the term. My speech is below.
Sir, I am pleased to present the legacy report of the PAC for this term. It is not my intention to go through the contents of the report given this late hour both in terms of the time of day and with respect to this meeting. It is a comprehensive record and members are only being asked to note it after all – and more on that later.
What I will do is focud on just 3 aspects of the report and then look to the future.
The present Committee had only just put its feet under the table when we were informed of a fraud committed against the States of £2.6m. In fact it was just a month into this term. This States has often been blamed for that event. However, sa I stated at the time the Committee published its report into the states of financial controls and risk management at the time, this was an incident waiting to happen.
Reports produced int he past, including those of previous PACs has, for whatever reason, been ignored. I am pleased that this States has acted on the findings of this PAC’s report which reflects the understanding particularly of the CM and PSD Minister of the time and the T&R Minister, in particular, as to the seriousness of the issue, as well as the pressure from the Committee to ensure our recommendations were acted upon.
Our second report on financial controls demonstrated the improvements made. However, the Committee is concerned that the focus on risk management will be lost as attention turns to public service reform. It is therefore critical that the Scrutiny Management Committee monitors developments closely.
I would no like to turn to the FTP, which has dominated much of this term. The Committee ha spent a considerable amount of time reviewing progress, or otherwise, of what was one of the most significant programmes of work ever undertaken by the States of Guernsey. The Committee took various approached in order to cover off various aspects of what was a complex area.
The Committee on a regular basis called in the T&R Minister and officers for updates as well as having a direct input on improving reporting for the Policy Council. The cost/benefit review which looked at the largest projects in the FTP acknowledged that savings has been made and found evidence of some excellent initiatives but expressed concern over some of the calculations and, more importantly whether certain savings would indeed be sustainable. And in addition, the Committee fought vociferously and successfully against the payment of commission to the consultant in respect of a transfer of £650k from general review to the Guernsey health service fund as it did not represent a saving to the taxpayer.
Finally, in relation to the FTP and subsequent to this report, the Committee held a public hearing where it questioned the T&R Minister and States Treasurer principally on the legacy of the programme and lessons learnt. More particularly on the transformational aspects.
I would like to thank the Minister for his openness at that hearing and I would recommend that the Hansard record be read by those involved in the Public Service Reform, both politicians and officers. I want to see public service reform work. I think we have a great opportunity to make it work but we need to understand lessons learnt.
Much of the Committee’s work as, by necessity, to be undertaken behind the scenes, this has included developing a more robust annual audit and accounts production process, providing greater value for money for the taxpayer as well as providing advice and recommendations which have considerably improved the States of Guernsey’ financial and resource management policies and procedures.
The last are I would like to focus on is post implementation reviews. Sir, recent headlines implied that projects undertaken by this States has been wasteful. However, I think it is important to make clear that several projects we looked at took place in the previous term and one, the airport terminal , over a decade ago. There has been a significant improvement in the management of projects since then. However, it is true that lessons do still need to be learnt and money is still being spent unnecessarily. It is for that reason that the Committee recommended that the Policy & Resources Committee in the next term look at placing PIRs in the public domain.
Before ending, I would like to leave a message for the future SMC.
- Firstly, work together as a team. It has been a pleasure working with a bunch of intelligent people who have worked together, can have robust conversations, but listen and respect each other’s views and come to a consensus. The PAC has certainly demonstrated that it can be done. We live in a consensus system and it is as important for the SMC as it is for every other Committee of the States. I just hope that continues in the next term.
- Secondly, don’t follow your own personal agenda. This will be even more important to be aware of where the whole scrutiny function is concentrated in just 3 Deputies and 2 Non-States Members; and
- Thirdly, Remember that what you want is to make government perform better. That can mean a balance between making a quick headline and working behind the scenes to make things happen. A recent report into the effectiveness of Westminster select committees in the last term stated that whist some committees took the big bang approach, they did not necessarily produce long term improvements. In fact it can lead to the bunker syndrome. A balance needs to be struck.
Sir, finally, and without wanting to make this sound like an Oscar acceptance speech, I would like to thank all those members of the Committee during this term. It has been a realtievely stable committee with changes only arising from the untimely death of Alderney Rep Paul Arditti and the departures of Deputies James and Le Clerc for an easier life on HSSD. I thank everyone for the positive contribution they have all made. I have been honoured to represent you in this Assembly.
There is an old adage that says, It should be noted that if you have something to note, then note it. Do not note that the item you wish to note should be noted. With that in mind, I ask members to note this report.
I laid a successful amendment to the Education Department’s report on Secondary Education in March 2016. My speech is below.
Sir, I did think I heard a collective groqn that another amendment would be laid but hopefully this won’t be a mammoth debate as I believe the Education Department will not oppose it. As I mentioned in earlier debate, this amendment is relevant whichever way we voted on selection. However, I do believe it will fit in very well under the non-selective system that has been approved this week.
At present the use of Gifted and Talented programmes is variable across schools and there is no central policy. The purpose of this amendment is to ensure that there is a co-ordinated policy across schools, something which I think makes complete sense and works very well under a comprehensive system. It is something in which I have taken a good deal of interest in the last few years.
So, what are Gifted and Talented students and why does there need to be a policy for them?
Dr Francois Gagne, who was a leader in the field on this area made the following definition;
Gifted students are those whose potential is distinctly above average in one or more of the following domains of human ability; intellectual, creative, social and physical. Talented students are those whose skills are distinctly above average in one or more areas of human performance’.
The key word here is ‘Potential’. That a child needs support and guidance to achieve his or her gifted potential. It is estimated that approximately 5% of students in a mixed ability school will gifted & talented but that is not set in stone and will vary, and should.
So, why do gifted & talented students need to be considered separately? Well, the normal curriculum may not be sufficiently interesting, motivating or straetching for the most able. They often need more challenging tasks if they are to maintain their enthusiasm, develop independence and reach their potential. Some exceptionally able students may have weaknesses which need specific attention if they are not to undermine outstanding abilities in other areas.
Extremely able students can become bored, unhappy or disaffected if their potential is unrecognised or neglected.
Gifted and Talented Education or GATE, is a broad term for special practices, procedures, and theories used in the education of children who have been identified as gifted and talented.
At present, schools approach gifted and talented students in different ways and to a greater or lesser extent. There is no overriding policy approach. St Sampson has details of their GATE for years 7,8 and 9 on their website. However, there is no policy in terms of the identification of gifted and talented, aims and objectives and measurement of outcomes. The purpose of this amendment is to fill that gap.
In a recent review of gifted and talented provision in Scotland, the author suggested that the focus on equality of opportunities and reluctance to consider selction in the Scottish education system meant that the needs of gifted and talented pupils had largely been ignored. I don’t think we can afford to ignore our giftes and talented ppils. Failure to identify such students risks damage to individuals who are so tuned off by rigid education that they opt out, sitting well below the attainment radar on their way to dropping out.
In turn, that damages our society and not letting them reach their potential means we are not maximising the potential value to our economy.
Sir, this is a common sense amendment, I understand the Education Department will not oppose it and I urge members to give their support.
Following the decision of the States to end the 11+ at the March 2016 States’ meeting, attention turned to the number of sites that should be retained. The choice was between the Education Department’s preferred model of one school across four sites, with the concept of a ‘hard’ federation, versus a 3 school model. The latter succeeded. My speech on the matter is below.
Sir, Deputy James said the other day, a long long time ago, how that she felt she had fireworks going off in her head. WEll I don’t know if she’s like me and after 4 days of debate those fireworks have turned to jelly. Much of what Deputy James has said in this debate resonated with me. That might well be because I have more than once expressed to her my disbelief at the Education Department’s hypocrisy when it comes to their report now and their arguments made to close St Andrew’s School.
We were told a reason for closure was falling pupil numbers. That there would be a peak and then numbers would tail off. Here we are told we need 4 sites due to rising pupil numbers.
They want to retain 4 smaller schools rather than have 3 bigger schools but a reason for closing St Andrew’s was that large schools meant better education outcomes and help teacher recruitment.
We were told during the St Andrew’s debate that closing a school would not result in large schools in the UK sense but a size to ensure better educational outcomes. And to hear Deputy Sillars earlier quote a report supporting smaller schools seems so, so, ironic. And hearing others quoting the advantages and disadvantages of smaller schools gives a huge feeling of deja vu. It does, however, support the point I made the other day that you can find an educationalist to support any argument you want.
Now, Deputy Parkinson said he’s like to see 4 schools and have each one specialise, say int he arts or sport. Well, how will that work given the decision made yesterday which would result effectively in selection by catchment area?
All that aside I think I should comment on a term used both in the run up to debate and today and that’s value for money. It’s been quite disappointing hearing some comments about value for money which have demonstrated a real lack of understanding as to what it means. Value for money is at the heart of public service reform and quite rightly so.
On page 30 of that document is a diagram showing 3 interconnecting circles representing cost, quality and need and in the middle it shows that where those circles interconnect we get value for money. Value for money is not cost. Deputy Gollop, this debate is not about cost. It is about cost, quality and need.
Now we are told we shouldn’t be bothered about value for money when it comes to education, health and social care. But, this represents a complete misunderstanding of value for money. You just can’t throw money at something regardless of whether it is needed or the quality of provision. This is an irresponsible use of funds. That way leads to financial meltdown.
And I remind members yet again that in the the consultation on the personal tax and benefits review, respondents said overwhelmingly that they weren’t prepared to keep on funding these services. Frankly, this report makes it impossible to determine whether the Department’s proposed solution is value for money. It sets out little in the way of figures, little on outcomes and how this will lead to a better educational system. That’s the problem.
In response to Deputy Gollop’s accusations against the members of T&Rwho supported retaining selection and now support the 3 school model. But the fact is you could have a 3 school option under selection as Deputy St Pier said in his opening speech. It would probably require more work and the criteria for selection would need to change to make it work but the point is it could work.
Sir, how can I as Chair of the Public Accounts Committee, faced with this report and at the same time seeing the potential for greater value for money do anything other than to vote for the 3 site option. I can’t and will be supporting amendment B2.
Probably one of the most divisive subjects that we have had to debate this term. It formed part of the Education Department’s policy letter proposals for secondary education. I thought it a very disappointing report with little in the way of evidence or desired outcomes. Financial information was sparse and the public consultation was totally ignored. The accompanying letter from Treasury & Resources was scathing. In fact the whole situation was unacceptable, with 2 Departments unable to reach consensus over 2 years. That can’t be allowed to happen again.
It was no wonder that the report was heavily amended. It had to be. A decision on the 11+ was needed before deciding the structure of schools.
Here is my speech on the 2 amendments which set out whether or not the 11+ should continue. The States voted to get rid of the 11+. This was followed by a subsequent amendment to retain selection through a combination of assessment and tests. I supported it, but this too was defeated.
Sir, as expected, there are many here who have strong views about the 11+, both for and against and these positions have been expressed well yesterday and today.
It’s hardly surprising, given that there is an abundance of material on the matter and that anyone can provide evidence to support their point of view. Indeed, I believe there is a whole industry dedicated to providing information to support a particular viewpoint and I think many educationalists have done very well indeed out of such debate over the years.
And really that’s the point. There is no overwhelming evidence either way to say whether the 11+ is better or worse than no selection at all.
So, as someone who has not nailed her colours to the mast of the 11+ or alternatively said scrap it altogether, I have found it very difficult to determine the best thing to do. Perhaps that reflects my experiences. I was brought up by a teacher who often made it clear she believed it should go, someone who attended a Grammar, which at the time I was there has the teachers working to rule, oh the delights of the late 70 and early 80s, and having a child at the Grammar school who has blossomed there.
I hear what my good friend Deputy Le Clerc said but I don’t think we should look at personal experiences but rather what is in the best interests of the Island as a whole.
For me, how I vote focuses around 2 claims. The first is the limitation and long term impact on children and the other about the shortcomings of the exam itself. I am going to focus on the former.
EQUALITY OF OPPORTUNITY
So, firstly, the big buzz word is that the 11+ does not provide equality of opportunity. This was said by all those not in support of the 11+.
The reasoning seems to be around restriction of access to the curriculum. That sounds reasonable. I mean if you can’t get access to the course you want, then that is not equality of access. However, I have been scratching my head as to why and how that means the solution is to scrap the 11+.
Will it be possible to offer all subjects under the system Education proposes? I do wonder the logistical nightmare of managing a timetable across 4 separate sites. I suspect there may well be a call for some new software to enable that to happen.
Now, I have been trying to get to the bottom of why there are such low numbers of chidlren from social housing that go to the Grammar and Colleges. We are told they are low, but no explanation. However, it is an argument made to demonstrate inequality of opportunity.
Now this is looked at in paragraph 7.8 where it states that in a 3 years period, of the 230 children in social housing only 3 went to the Grammar. Just over 1%. That is low.
BUT it goes on to say that the teachers only assessed 31 out of the 230 as being capable of going to either the Grammar or Colleges. So that is just 13%. However, the top 25% from any year go there.
I’ve not heard anyone today explain that difference and why it is the 11+ that is to blame. Doesn’t that demonstrate the equality of opportunity exists before Year 6?
Is it the primary school system? We hear they are wonderful, and they’re mixed ability, no one has a bad word to say for them. Or is it the family circumstances of those children? Is this something which demonstrates the importance of the 1001 days programme? We need to sort things out before the children even get to school?
I do see that the numbers from social housing are less than those in private sector. But is it the 11+ concept that is at fault?
I do understand that setting can be a solution, althought the report is vague on this and should this amendment be passed I would be happy to second an amendment referred to by Deputy St Pier, to ensure that it is.
However, there will be a fundamental difference between setting students across 4 mixed ability schools than setting under a selective system, which exists now in core subjects. I know it does at the Grammar
Taking the top 25% of a distribution and setting that gives you much tighter ability levels in each set rather than the comprehensive model that takes the whole distribution and divides it up into sets, resulting in much wider ability levels in each set. Of course the alternative will be to have more sets and perhaps that is a solution.
Now, one issue that hasn’t been clarified is whether results will be published by campus or as one school? Frankly I think the public will demand it by campus. Well, I think the Housing Minister might quite like that as it could well stimulate the housing market with parents moving to the most desirable catchment area. Something that has been done in respect of primary schools. Of course, those in social housing aren’t able to make those same choices. So we will have selection, but based on geographic accident, or perhaps not, of where your parents are, rather than ability
Finally, Another commonly cited problem, is that the 11+ can cause mental health issues. I can understand that a child who does not get a Grammar school place may, wrongly see themselves as failures. It is hard not getting what you want and looking like you are not as good as someone else.
However, as Deputy Minister of HSSD, when I heard that children were damaged by the system I did think it was beholden on me to find out more. The response I got from the mental health service was that they have come across children over the years who have attributed low self esteem ,anxiety and low mood to failure at the 11+ but often there are many other factors which contribute to the development of children’s mental health disorders so it is difficult to say there is a direct link .
Interestingly though, they are seeing a rise in the number of young people presenting with low mood ,anxiety , self harm and eating disorders as a result of exam pressure around GCSEs and A levels. I would hope that the initiative under the CYPP that we debated 2 weeks ago will help alleviate this.
However, clearly for some it will be upsetting to not get to the Grammar or Colleges. I know that many like Deputy Duquemin consider this a very important point. Deputy Brehaut’s comments that it’s the only test you can only take once, it is all or nothing, but that is true of other tests. Going for a job, you either get it or you don’t. And degrees, post-graudate qualifications are limited, if not by the institution, certainly in terms of money.
So, finally and more briefly, turning to the argument on the structural problems of the 11+ we do hear that in the last 2 years there are more girls than boys at the Grammar School, a minority from social housing and that many children are coached. Can’t these issues be dealt with through changing the structure rather than getting rid of it totally?
On this I thought I’d look at my old school’s website. It is still a Grammar, but now has the benefit of being a locally managed Academy School, with Humanities College status, which was rated as outstanding by Ofsted at its last review. I was interested to find out all its policies are published on the website and that included its equality objectives. These are based around equality of access, equality of provision and equality of outcome.
In relation to the former it have the following policies;
- To give preference to students on free school meals in the admission border zone.
- To ensure the 11+ reading test does not have a ‘middle-class’ bias.
- To set a test that restricts the benefit of an 11+ tutor.
These policies have increased the proportion of childnre on free school meals who attend the school from 6% to 8% in 2015. So, it can be done.
I suppose to me the most important issue is not about equality of opportunity but fairness, which is part of the criteria that the department are said to have considered. Is it fair that every child gets the same education rather than the education that its them? We don’t have a failing system. All the schools are doing very well, or so we’re told.
So, why would we want to throw everything up in the air and hope that a bespke untried system will work better, when we don’t know what better is? That is the issue for me. I don’t have a strong ideological viewpoint, but I wish I did as it would make it so much easier. I just don’t see that getting rid of the 11+, or selection generally, will lead to Nirvana.
For that reason I can’t support Amendment 1 but will support Amendment 2.
Hi there. I’m Heidi Soulsby and I was elected as a Deputy for SE District in Guernsey’s general election in April 2012 and I am standing for re-election in 2016.
When I first stood for election, I said that I wasn’t a typical politician. I hope that what you have seen over the last 4 years has demonstrated just that. Through my roles as Chair of the Public Accounts Committee, Deputy Minister of the Health and Social Services Department and the other positions I have held, I have strived to make a difference through common sense, drive and passion.
In my manifesto I want to demonstrate not only what I see needs to be addressed in the next term, but also how what I say can be backed up by what I have done in the last 4 years. We have seen lots of strategies developed recently, with many fine words, but what we need now is action. However, I believe we have to be realistic. I could produce a long list of all the things that should be done, but what we really require is a States of Guernsey that is focused. Unless we establish priorities, expenditure could easily spiral out of control, leading to growing demands for tax rises to pay for everything. This must not be allowed to happen.
That is why the theme of my manifesto is focus. We must focus on where Government can, and must, make a positive difference. This includes long overdue action on housing, essential public service reform and support for economic growth. However, above all, it means transformation of our model of health and social care. That is why, if I am elected, I will seek to lead the new Committee for Health and Social Care to ensure that the positive work done, since the last Board took office in October 2014, can continue without delay.
Welcome to my website. Here you can read my manifesto, hear about my life in the States and other matters, as well as sending me feedback and your ideas.
To download the printed version of my manifesto please click here