Blog: 2 schools of thought on 2 school leadership

New President of Guernsey's Education, Sport and Culture Committee, Matt Fallaize Credit: ITV Channel TV

Deputy Matt Fallaize, as many expected, has been appointed the new President for Education, Sport & Culture.

But today's election within the States was certainly more than a formality.

Today he faced former ESC Vice-President Carl Meerveld as his opponent, and Deputy Meerveld secured a whopping 17 votes, against Deputy Fallaize's 23. And that's actually rather close.

I suspect all of Deputy Meerveld's ex-ESC colleagues, who are also supporters of the ex-ESC plans for secondary education - the so-called '3-school model' will have supported him.

But to secure 17 votes may mean there are many more who want to see the decision to move to 2-schools overturned.

If that is the case, then that seems a fair enough reason to me to back Deputy Meerveld. Some political onlookers will dread the prospect of yet another potential u-turn on education, wishing the States would just 'get on with it!'

But if you are a politician and you genuinely feel the government is moving in the wrong direction on something as vital as education, there is no dishonour in trying to do something about it.

What my worry would be is that some members may feel it's better to have a 2-school cynic like Deputy Meerveld leading the 2-school transformation, rather than a 2-school supporter like Deputy Fallaize. That would be a mistake.

One lesson the States should take away from the whole education saga of this political term is that the committee must, MUST, believe in what it is doing - at least in the core areas.

Having a non-believer or two as committee members is probably fine, maybe even a good thing, but the majority and the President, need to believe in their own fundamental direction of travel if they are to stand any chance of success.

The previous Education Committee's President and several members were pro-selection, and opposed to moving to comprehensives. They lost that debate in the States, but stayed in post to plan and oversee the transition regardless, describing themselves as 'servants' of the States, perfectly capable of fulfilling the States wishes even if they didn't personally agree with them.

But that in itself was part of what lost them their next big debate: 3-schools vs 2-schools.

A committee that believed secondary education should not be reformed, was always going to struggle in a debate on how to reform it. Especially when up against a group of deputies, the 'gang of 4' who showed real passion for what they preached.

How on earth do you sell a 3-school comprehensive to your colleagues when they know perfectly well you don't really believe in it yourself, and that deep down, you'd rather keep a 4-school selective system?

Even if 3-schools is better, part of the task in a debate is salesmanship, and selling something you really believe in is always going to prove more convincing and compelling.

By having a 'cynic' leading the charge on such a fundamental issue is part of what cost the 3-schoolers the debate.

Today again the States were tasked with choosing between a candidate who believed in the States resolution for a 2-school system, and one who did not.

This time they did go for the believer rather than the cynic, but as I said, it was closer than most of us expected, and that may indicate some deputies haven't yet learnt the lessons of this term's big political saga.