The email below was sent to the five members of the Committee for Education, Sport & Culture (Deputies Paul Le Pelley, Carl Meerveld, Andrea Dudley-Owen, David de Lisle and Marc Leadbeater) earlier this afternoon, in the names of Deputies Emilie Yerby, Charles Parkinson, Jonathan Le Tocq, Dawn Tindall, Shane Langlois, Lindsay de Sausmarez and Rhian Tooley, inviting their resignations within five working days in order to avoid a formal Motion of No Confidence being placed in the Committee:
Dear Paul, Carl, David, Marc and Milly
Rule 21 – Motion of No Confidence
On behalf of seven Members of the States, I am formally inviting you to resign as the President and Members of the Committee for Education, Sport & Culture; attaching, as required, the full draft text of our request, which sets out the grounds on which the motion of no confidence will be based. On the basis of these grounds, we do not believe that the Committee can continue in its present form. In keeping with the Rules of Procedure, we would ask you all, as Committee members, to consider resigning your positions and, at the very least, seeking a fresh mandate from the States. If you are not prepared to do so, this motion will be submitted to the Presiding Officer once five working days have elapsed, in accordance with Rule 21.
I will not go over the grounds of the motion in this email. I would just draw your attention to the final substantive paragraph of those grounds. The signatories to this motion do acknowledge your courage in taking on a tough mandate. We do not bring this motion in order to humiliate the Committee, and, if Members of the Committee choose to step down, we will commend your dignity and thank you for the hard work that you’ve done to date. We are pursuing this simply because the subject matter at stake – the education of a generation of the island’s children – is of such vital importance that the States must have full confidence in those delivering it.
There will, unavoidably, be media coverage, as talk of a motion of no confidence has abounded for the past few days. We have taken the view that it is therefore preferable to publish the draft motion to all States Members and to the media straight away, rather than allow the gap to be filled with rumour and misinformation. We will do so shortly following this email. In view of their responsibilities as the senior Committee of the States, we have also copied in members of the Policy & Resources Committee to this email.
Attached to the letter was the following text, containing the full draft grounds of a proposed Motion of No Confidence in the Committee:
MOTION OF NO CONFIDENCE
Committee for Education, Sport & Culture
On 15 March, 2016, the States resolved, inter alia: “[t]o agree that the current selective admission of students to States’ secondary schools and the grant-aided Colleges based predominantly on the 11 Plus examination shall be replaced with effect from September 2019 (for new Year 7 students) by non-selective admission to States’ secondary schools based predominantly on a feeder system from primary schools and that the States’ secondary schools shall set students by ability as appropriate.” On 2 December, 2016, the States resolved to negative a proposition of the Committee for Education, Sport & Culture to rescind the aforementioned resolution of 15 March. This motion of no confidence follows the resolution of 2 December (‘the December debate’). It is laid on the grounds that:
First, a Committee which, by a majority, favours selective admission to secondary education will struggle to formulate, agree and implement plans for non-selective admission, especially within the necessary timescales. It should be recalled that Deputy Le Pelley, President of the Committee, has described changes to the system as “putting a huge group of youngsters at risk” and “a recipe for disaster.” In debate, he was unable to envision a system of non-selective secondary education which would not diminish Guernsey’s future educational performance: saying that Jersey would no longer struggle to catch up with our standards and, at one stage, raising the spectre of “sink schools”.
While Committees, from time to time, receive directions from the States which are counter to their own recommendations, it is very rare for them to be directed to do something in which they have expressed no faith, and to which they have demonstrated sustained, uncompromising opposition. In this instance, the Committee’s position is more like that of an individual Member who cannot, in good conscience, accept a policy direction and who therefore chooses to step down. As the Members of the Committee most opposed to non-selective secondary education have not done so, the States has no option other than to consider its confidence in the Committee as a whole.
Second, the Committee has itself declared its lack of confidence in its own ability to manage the risks associated with the transition. This was the principal reason given by Deputy Dudley-Owen for withdrawing her support for non-selective admission during the December debate. Following that debate, the President announced on BBC Radio that “Guernsey would rue the day” that it abolished selective admission to secondary education. Those are not the words of a person who believes his Committee can deliver an acceptably high standard of education through a non-selective system.
Third, the Committee has already demonstrated a confused approach in this critical area of policy. The President was elected in May having declared his clear intention to seek an alternative form of selection (described as a “much reduced stressful type of assessment at 11, with a safety net of being able to transfer … at 13 or 14”). The Committee’s policy letter of 14 October 2016 (P.2016/49) did not, however, propose any viable alternative to the current system of selection by the 11+. Indeed, selection by continuous assessment – being the method proposed in an amendment seconded by Deputy Le Pelley in March 2016 – was specifically ruled out as an appropriate solution in that policy letter.
The Committee’s approach has been inconsistent and divided throughout. In September 2016, Deputy Le Pelley announced that the Committee for Education, Sport & Culture would return to the States by June 2017 with proposals for a non-selective secondary education system, although his own view remained in favour of selection. In October 2016, the Committee published a policy letter in which the majority of its Members declared themselves in favour of non-selective admission to secondary education, after extensive consideration and deliberation within the Committee, but that position was then reversed in the December debate. The original propositions in that policy letter risked leaving the States without a clear resolution on the issue, and required amendment by the Committee. Meanwhile, the Vice President of the Committee released completely separate proposals for the future shape of the education system, without the clear support of his fellow Committee Members.
On other matters, such as the provision of universal access to preschool education, the Committee has also declared its intention to reverse the decision of the previous States, but has not yet been able to find an alternative, acceptable solution. In view of such a track record, the States cannot be confident that the Committee will be able to succeed in delivering the complex changes to the secondary education system, which it is now required to do.
Fourth, the Committee has not demonstrated due care towards the island’s children and young people, which should be their primary concern. Immediately following the December debate, the President announced on radio that Guernsey “had lost an excellent school”, instead of providing clear and factual information about what the States had decided, and seeking to reassure all school communities that the transition would be managed smoothly and sensitively.
Members of the Committee have also shown a disappointing lack of professionalism in managing differences of opinion with staff, choosing to air these through public channels, including the Sunday Phone-In, before exhausting internal avenues.
States Members, on all sides of the debate, argued that the transition to a new form of secondary education, premised on non-selective admission to secondary schools, would be a complex matter which, for the sake of all the island’s children and young people, could not be allowed to fail or falter. For such a transition to succeed, it must be led by a Committee which genuinely believes in the reforms agreed by the States; which is capable of engaging with all the issues; which will provide assertive and decisive leadership; and which will steer the islands’ schools through a series of significant political decisions and potentially extensive school-level change with calm and assurance, in the best interests of the islands’ children. The current Committee has not, so far, demonstrated that it is capable of rising to such a major challenge – and the scale of the impact on children’s education is so considerable that the States must have full confidence in those charged with delivering this change.
The signatories to this Motion of No Confidence recognise the courage of all five Members of the Committee for Education, Sport & Culture in taking on a difficult and divisive political issue. Should the Motion be carried, there is nothing to prevent any of those Members standing again for a seat on a newly-constituted Committee. Nevertheless, it is the view of the signatories to this Motion that the grounds set out above are irreconcilable with the Committee continuing in its current form. All other approaches to resolving these concerns having failed, this Motion provides the States with an opportunity to give the current Committee a fresh mandate, or to re-form the Committee for Education, Sport & Culture with a membership which it believes to be capable of implementing the resolutions of the December debate in a timely, effective and constructive way.
Deputy E A Yerby
Deputy C N K Parkinson
Deputy J P Le Tocq
Deputy D A Tindall
Deputy S L Langlois
Deputy H L de Sausmarez
Deputy R H Tooley