Pressure mounting on Jersey's government to assist fee-paying schools

Credit: ITV Channel TV

Questions are mounting over what will be done to help Jersey's fee-paying and independent schools to manage the impact of coronavirus.

Many parents in Jersey have been financially hit during the crisis and are no longer able to meet fees.

Others question to what extent full fees are still justified when they are having to home school their children.

So far, there has been no government support forthcoming to help the schools, or parents.

Whilst some schools offer full virtual classroom tuition, many parents are left having to do most of the work themselves. Credit: ITV Channel TV

The island's fee paying schools have all taken different approaches to fees and continued school closures.

In addition what they are able to offer in terms of alternative learning also differs considerably. Whilst some schools offer full virtual classroom tuition, many parents are left having to do most of the work themselves.

Jersey College for Girls and Victoria College, the island's two states owned fee-paying schools, have offered no discounts on fees, although fees have been frozen until the end of the year.

St Michael's and St George's, which are entirely private, have offered discounts of up to 10% on application.

De La Salle and Beaulieu, are subsidised. They have offered no discounts, although De La Salle has stopped building projects in order to boost its hardship coffers.

De la Salle has stopped building projects in order to boost its hardship coffers. Credit: ITV Channel TV

Parents who have spoken to ITV news have told of the impact coronavirus has had on their own salaries, and therefore their ability to pay fees.

One parent who works in the construction industry told us how he had suffered a 25% reduction in salary, and that when he approached the school about it was threatened with legal action.

Another parent said they were asked for full fees upfront.

In asking for full fees up front, with a token refund to be applied next term, not enough consideration is being given to the concept of private education as a service... A more fair and supportive system might be to ask for 50% up front, with the balance to be reviewed depending on the success of the remote learning system.

Anonymous parent

For the schools it is a double edged sword. Whilst they want to help where they can - hardship funds are limited, and the teachers are still working - albeit from home.

Credit: ITV Channel TV

Mike Rees, Headmaster of St Michael's Preparatory School, one of the island's independent schools, said just because of the "diminished curriculum that pupils are getting" it does not mean the "staff's workload has diminished".

But that's certainly not the case, it's quite the contrary really. The intensity has increased and the hours have increased and the staff are working, if anything, a lot harder than they were if the school should be open.

Mike Rees, Headmaster of St Michael's Preparatory School

He did however recognise that there has been a huge impact on parents at the school.

It's impacted from one side of the continuum, absolute devastation, to those who can perhaps continue to afford the fees as they are set, and of course everywhere in between. So each parent situation is completely unique but there's been a huge overall impact on our parents' ability to pay fees.

Mike Rees, Headmaster of St Michael's Preparatory School
Senator Tracey Vallois encouraged parents to contact their schools in the first instance if they were struggling to pay fees. Credit: ITV Channel TV

In a press release last week, Education Minister, Senator Tracey Vallois, encouraged parents to contact their schools in the first instance if they were struggling to pay fees, and discuss ways in which they might be able to access the schools' hardship schemes.

She also said options are being worked on which, if implemented, could "supplement the hardship funds already managed by schools should they become insufficient to cater for demand".

Not helping fee-paying and independent schools could end up costing tax-payers more, if there were to be an influx of children into the States sector.

At the moment children at independent schools cost the government nothing. Meanwhile, children at subsidised primary schools cost them 22% of what it costs to educate a child in a State's primary school, whilst children at a subsidised secondary school cost them 47% of what it costs to educate them in a State's secondary school.

Further details on a hardship fund scheme are expected in the coming weeks.

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