Education – Open Letter


Education – Open Letter

Following a leak to BBC Guernsey of correspondence between some States Members, I sent the following email and attachments to all colleagues yesterday (5 January ’17):

Dear all

In connection with next week’s debate on the Motion of No Confidence in the Committee for Education, Sport & Culture, I understand that BBC Guernsey intend to run a piece tomorrow on the message below & attached, which has been leaked to them.

The email and attachment are fairly self-explanatory, and I see no reason why you shouldn’t see the whole thing and draw your own conclusions. We very nearly sent it to all of you at the time, anyway, and it’ll make for a healthier debate than if you just hear extracts via the media. For context, my original email was sent late on the very same day that we’d just voted to end the 11+, in reaction to some of the commentary that followed that debate from Committee members and others. You can imagine that there was some lively discussion among the 21 people copied in (it is not my business to forward their emails – although I understand that the BBC has seen many of them – but they will no doubt chip in if they consider it appropriate) – ranging from whole-hearted support to concern about appearing to “gloat” – and ultimately we concluded that we were not in a position to give sufficient assurance, in the letter, to make it worth sending.

I’m sure you can see that both this, and the Motion of No Confidence which followed a few days later, are different manifestations of the same concern – fears over ESC’s ability and willingness to deliver such a major transition in our education system, and an equally profound sense of responsibility for having set that transition in motion & not being prepared to let islanders down by allowing it to fail. Of course we all have differing views on how best that is achieved, and much of that will be explored in next week’s debate: I don’t intend to rehearse that now – this is purely to keep you informed ahead of the media doing so.

I hope you have all managed to have a decent break; a pleasant, restful festive period; and a good start to the New Year.
Best wishes

The original email was sent (on 2 December ’16) to the Deputies who voted to remove selection – Barry Brehaut, Lindsay de Sausmarez, Matt Fallaize, John Gollop, Chris Green, Sarah Hansmann-Rouxel, Shane Langlois, Marc Leadbeater, Michelle le Clerc, Jonathan le Tocq, Carl Meerveld, Jennifer Merrett, Charles Parkinson, Laurie Queripel, Lester Queripel, Peter Roffey, Jane Stephens, Gavin St Pier, Dawn Tindall and Rhian Tooley. It said:

Dear all

Hope you are all enjoying the start of the weekend, after a heck of a week in the States.

We all know the 11+ debate was just the beginning, and there are many things still to be resolved – most of which can’t be dealt with by a simple email. But one thing I’m sensitive to is the instant communication gap. Neil Inder provides a great soundbite: both ITV and the Press have been happy to take his “assassination of the Grammar School” quote as a headline, harmful and inaccurate though it is. I’m conscious that it will be very hard for the Committee for Education, Sport & Culture to provide a strong counter-narrative to that because half the Committee are very disappointed with today’s result. So I wonder if we ought to take responsibility for filling the gap, at least at first. I’m conscious that people at and associated with all the schools – but especially the Grammar and LMDC – will be spooked by the comments & reactions of some of the pro-selection side of the debate.

I would like to suggest that we send an Open Letter to the media, and that we pay for it to be printed as a full-page ad in the Press (if enough of us are willing / able to chip in to make that possible). I have pulled together the first draft of a text that I think we might all be able to agree on, despite our varying positions on different aspects of educational policy.

I’d welcome your thoughts on whether you think this is a good idea at all (and, if so, whether you’d be willing to put your name to it – for now, I’ve included everyone’s names in the draft, and it would certainly be most powerful if we could all do this together); and, if so, any suggested improvements to the text.

See some of you at Beausie tomorrow morning for the drop-in.

Best wishes

Here is the draft letter which I attached to that email. It was never finalised, and so it cannot be taken as an accurate representation of the views of all 21 people who voted to remove selection.


We are the 21 Deputies who voted to confirm the States’ decision to remove the 11+.

We did this in order to give every child in the Bailiwick access to the best possible educational opportunities, without having to undergo an unfair, unsettling and inaccurate test of ability at 11. But we know that this is just the beginning – there are many unanswered questions, and a lot of hard work needed, in order to build an education system which is fit for the future.

There will be lots of different views about what happens now. Since we have kickstarted this process, we recognise that it is our responsibility to try and keep it on track, and to be honest with the public about what we think will happen next. This is our shared view:

1. Today’s debate was purely about whether the 11+ (or some form of selection) should stay, or not. The States decided it should not.

2. This means that all secondary schools (Les Beaucamps High, St Sampson’s High, La Mare de Carteret High, St Anne’s, and the Grammar School) will become mixed-ability schools. From 2019, children going into Year 7 will not have to take the 11+. They’ll probably go to the school closest to where they live, although some of us want to look at giving students and families greater freedom to choose their preferred school.

3. You will hear some people now saying that “the States voted to close the Grammar School.” This is not true. Around June 2017, the States will debate the future of all four Guernsey secondary schools, including whether or how to rebuild the La Mare de Carteret Schools. It is likely that we will then move to three secondary schools – but no decisions have been made about which three, and many States Members (including several of us) would prefer to retain four. This will be a public debate, so you can have your say too.

4. All these changes will have an impact on post-16 education: the Sixth Form Centre at the Grammar School, and the College of Further Education. The States will need to decide whether these should continue as they are or, if not, what changes are needed to make sure they fit into the new secondary education system. We believe this decision will take place in June 2017, too, alongside the debate on the future of the secondary school buildings.

5. At the moment, the States subsidises a number of places at the private Colleges for students who get a certain mark in their 11+. As there will be no 11+ from 2019, the States will need to look at whether it’s still appropriate to provide funding to the Colleges. We expect there will be a States’ debate on this question in 2017. We are confident that there will be no changes for students who have States-funded places at the Colleges now.

6. This decision naturally also leads to the question of how we ensure the best possible balance of integration and support for children with special educational needs (SEN). For now, there are no plans to change the provision at Le Rondin, Le Murier and Les Voies. We believe the States needs a clear plan for SEN within the new system, and will be encouraging the Committee for Education, Sport & Culture to develop this.

We were encouraged by how many States Members said they would accept the result of the debate on the 11+ and work to make the new system a success. We know that each of the issues above will create new debate and uncertainty over the next year or so, but we will work with the Committee for Education, Sport & Culture, and with our fellow States Members, to try and make that as open and constructive as possible. The Committee for Education, Sport & Culture is primarily responsible for doing the work on each of these issues, and will no doubt be putting together its plan of action now.

We know that some people will be delighted at the result of the 11+ debate, while others will be very disappointed. We respect the views and concerns of all members of our community, and we hope you will all continue to engage with the States to build the best possible education system for the future.

Yours sincerely

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