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St Sampson's staff criticise two-school model proposals

Those signing the letter believe the St Sampson's has not enough space and could pose a health and safety risk. Credit: ITV Channel TV

Plans for Guernsey's two-school model have been heavily criticised in an open letter from staff at St Sampson's School.

88 members of staff, including teachers, support staff and other professionals, signed the letter which calls for the government to 'pause and reflect' on the policy.

The letter also claims that many staff have been frightened to challenge the proposals out of fear of losing their jobs.

Comments such as “be a radiator, not a drain... we don’t want drains in our system,” “Shut up and put up,” and assurances that any concerns we may have are irrelevant as “The train has left the station,” do not reassure teaching staff that thorough consultation is really a priority of those managing this change. Furthermore such a climate has left teachers who do voice their concerns fearing for their jobs.

– Open letter from staff at St Sampson's staff

The open letter lists a number of concerns about the proposals in several different areas.

  • Accessibility and Transport

It describes proposals for access to the school site as 'impractical', saying the proposed parking arrangements are detrimental to staff and students with mobility issues - and warning that emergency vehicles would be 'severely hampered' in getting access to the site.

The staff members also argue that the suggestion of parents having to arrive 15 minutes early and wait for buses to move on will cause major disruption.

There are also concerns for who would be responsible for students as they walk from Oatlands, a dedicated 'drop and stride zone'.

  • Infrastructure and the current building

Those signing the letter believe the St Sampson's is not big enough and could pose a health and safety risk. They say 'corridors have already proven to be of insufficient width' and more pupils will make problems worse.

They say a lack of social space and only 280 planned seats for 800 pupils taking lunch will cause issues.

  • Outside space and facilities

Similarly staff say that reduced outdoor space to make the two-school model site work is at detriment to the wellbeing of pupils.

The lack of outside space is a cause for concern; 1600 students (including Le Murier) cannot be restricted to less space than we have currently for 700 students. In accordance with the Peter Marsh report which has been repeatedly used by the ESC to justify its decisions, there is a notable lack of ‘soft play’ areas which will require students to be transported off-site to other sports facilities which will have a detrimental impact on their educational outcomes and attainment.

– Open letter from staff at St Sampson's staff
Plans for Guernsey's two-school model have been heavily criticised Credit: ITV Channel TV

The letter concludes its argument by saying that staff are 'extremely frustrated' and they feel their voice is dismissed.

Responding to the letter in a statement, Deputy Matt Fallaize, President of the Committee for Education, Sport & Culture, said while he understands concerns around transport, the challenges are 'surmountable'.

He said the Committee has 'never once discouraged anyone working in a school from expressing their views as they see fit.'

We understand that staff in schools are anxious about their own futures. Every teacher has been assured there will be a teaching role for them in the new structure but of course they want to know more detail and our officers, school leaders and union colleagues are trying to provide it as soon as possible. We anticipate that there will shortly be a period of consultation with staff on the proposed future staff structure. The sooner we can get that agreed and start making further appointments the better.

– Deputy Matt Fallaize, President of the Committee for Education, Sport & Culture

Deputy Fallaize also refuted claims made in the letter, saying some of the comparisons made applied to school 'significantly larger' than the two colleges being proposed in Guernsey.

He also challenged critics of the two-school model to put 'commit to an alternative solution' - saying it would be 'irresponsible' of the government to walk back on the proposals now.

‘Of course managing change on a large scale is hugely challenging. The States as an organisation is not used to change on this scale. There were always going to be periods of unease and opposition along the way. We have never said that these reforms are perfect, but they are much better than any other way of organising non-selective secondary education. This is why every other model put forward previously has been rejected. We note that our critics who say they are putting together a requete which in effect would scrap the current reforms have not yet committed to an alternative solution.

I hope they will soon, so that people can assess the advantages of and disadvantages of their model compared to the reforms now underway. It would be irresponsible to stop the current reforms with no idea about what to do instead.

– Deputy Matt Fallaize, President of the Committee for Education, Sport & Culture

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