One schools 4 Sites v 3 Schools
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.